Like it or not — and Jason Pierre-Paul won’t like it — the rules of engagement here mean JPP needs the Giants more than they need him.
Because the Giants used the franchise tag again, Pierre-Paul cannot go anywhere.
Teams can open up negotiations with free agents March 7, and if Pierre-Paul were out there, someone would have rushed in immediately, with big bucks falling out of their pockets. Heck, the offer might have had a familiar feel, and wouldn’t that have been something, seeing JPP in the uniform of the Cowboys or Redskins?
Players crave such freedom, but JPP has never hit the market; and now, entering his eighth NFL season, he once again will not get to test his value or create a bidding war. And he is the one who put himself in this undesirable situation.
Teams use the system when it suits them and Pierre-Paul literally blew his first chance at big money with the July 4, 2015, fireworks accident that left him with fewer fingers on his right hand than is typical. His comeback has been impressive, even inspirational, but it has come with a price.
After the accident, the Giants rescinded the franchise tag they slapped on him in 2015, as he failed to sign it before the accident. The tag that year would have paid him $14.8 million, but he had to settle for an incentive-laden deal worth up to $8.7 million. This time around, Pierre-Paul is guaranteed at least $17 million if he signs the franchise tender. He knows better than anyone the risk involved with keeping his name off the dotted line. He should sign it, and then try to negotiate a long-term deal.
As with most things in life, timing is tricky here. Sure, the franchise tag prevents Pierre-Paul from getting plucked by another team, but it also ties up $17 million in salary-cap space.
That is more than half of the $32 million the Giants are estimated to own in cap space and losing all that spending money would severely alter what they are able to do in free agency. A long-term deal would greatly reduce JPP’s cap hit in 2017, a win-win for both sides.
This is the fourth time the Giants have used the franchise tag, the second time on Pierre-Paul. They did it in 2009 with running back Brandon Jacobs and in 2012 with punter Steve Weatherford. Both times, those players quickly signed the franchise tender and eventually received long-term contracts. Granted, those were not high-stakes deals, as any multi-year contract will be with JPP.
At his peak, circa 2011, Pierre-Paul was a better player than Olivier Vernon, and he wants to be paid like Vernon — although he is not holding firm at matching Vernon’s five-year, $85 million package.
The Giants know JPP’s right hand is permanently damaged. He is 28 years old and has gone through shoulder injuries, back surgery, reconstructive hand surgery and core-muscle surgery. Still, he is an uncommon athlete — his teammates call him “freakish’’ and he will stay on the field every snap if the coaching staff deems it necessary. After quarterback, pass rusher is the most difficult and costly position to fill.
It may very well be that Pierre-Paul’s chances of landing a mega-deal from the Giants ended the day they signed Vernon. The Giants would like to make JPP happy, but it is more important for them to keep him, period.
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