On Monday, the New York Giants announced that they placed the Franchise Tag on defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul. The rules around the franchise tag are tricky, but the gist of it is that the Giants are on the hook for around $17 million next year for Pierre-Paul’s services.
Let’s analyze what this deal means for Pierre-Paul, the Giants, and the rest of the Giants’ offseason plans.
First things first: Giants fans should be excited that the team has signed Pierre-Paul for the 2017 season. Given JPP’s status as a free agent and his vast contract demands, it was more than a slight possibility that he would test the market and leave the only team he’s known in the NFL. Now, the Giants have exclusive rights to Pierre-Paul, which not only buys them more time, but shields JPP from seeing what other teams think he’s worth.
The reason some fans aren’t thrilled with the use of the franchise tag here is the sheer cost that the tag requires. The Giants have to pay Pierre-Paul essentially 10% of the projected salary cap, which is set at $167 million this year. A $17 million paycheck is not only an insane amount of money, it’s the most on the entire Giants defense. Pierre-Paul’s figure exceeds that of Olivier Vernon, Janoris Jenkins, Justin Pugh, and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie; only Eli Manning will make more than JPP this year. Pierre-Paul may think that he is settling with the use of the franchise tag, but in fact he is now actually the highest-paid member of the Giants’ defense.
The main problem with Pierre-Paul’s lofty cap figure is that the Giants were looking forward to having a lot of available money to be used on free agents this spring, JPP included. Thanks to the cuts of Victor Cruz and Rashad Jennings, the Giants had a projected $34 million in cap space for this offseason. Pierre-Paul’s franchise tag eats up half of that available space. And when you consider that teams always want to keep around $3-6 million as a buffer zone, this only leaves the Giants with $11-14 million to spend.
However, there is a possible loophole. The Franchise Tag allows an exclusive window where a player and team can negotiate a long-term contract. The window ends on July 15, but the Giants are really going to want to get the deal done by March 9 so their hands aren’t tied when free agency begins. If the Giants can agree with Pierre-Paul on the long-term deal he is seeking, his cap figure will be brought down and the Giants will have the ability to continue to make improvements to the team.
Pierre-Paul is said to be looking for a similar deal to the one that his teammate Olivier Vernon received last year from the Giants. In the deal, Vernon became the highest-paid defensive lineman ever, earning $85 million over 5 years. However, Pierre-Paul is a bit off-base in asking for such a high figure.
For one, Vernon was two years younger than Pierre-Paul when he signed the deal. Vernon has never missed a game in his NFL career, whereas Pierre-Paul has always struggled staying on the field in his career.
Pierre-Paul does have some positives in his corner though. He has been a Giant for 7 years, has had many great team and individual moments, and has grown into a team leader. Furthermore, Pierre-Paul’s numbers in sacks and tackles are comparable to Vernon despite the age gap, and JPP is a specialist at deflecting passes.
Pierre-Paul’s true value is probably somewhere around a 5-year deal worth $65 million. This deal would give Pierre-Paul the fourth-highest total salary of any defensive end’s contract, and that ranking could be even higher depending on how much money the Giants guarantee.
Signing Vernon was a necessity for the Giants last year, but they more than likely overpaid for his services. This in turn has resulted in dollar signs in Pierre-Paul’s eyes. He is seeking a contract similar to the exception, not the norm. My proposed contract still pays JPP more than top defensive ends Robert Quinn, Everson Griffen, Vic Beasley, Khalil Mack, Cameron Jordan, Cameron Heyward, Cameron Wake, and Jurrell Casey. Considering Pierre-Paul’s age and injury problems, my proposed contract is more than reasonable.
Assuming JPP and the Giants can agree on a deal similar to what I have suggested, that would result in a cap hit around $13 million. This amounts to $4 million in salary cap savings, which will immensely help out the Giants this spring. They still want to re-sign Jonathan Hankins, they desperately need to upgrade the left tackle position and maybe a guard spot, they’d like to acquire a tight end, and veteran depth at running back and wide receiver could be useful. The Giants still won’t be able to do all of these things with a new contract from JPP, but a cheaper deal and a smart draft can help check all of these boxes off over time.
Overall, it is a good thing that the Giants will have Jason Pierre-Paul on the team next year. Some of the financial particulars still have to be sorted out, but for at least one more year, JPP will be a member of the New York Giants. The team’s biggest offseason priority has been checked off.