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Giants free agents 2015: Franchise tag or long-term deal for Jason Pierre-Paul?

Let's begin discussing the Giants 2015 class of free agents with the biggest fish of them all.

Jason Pierre-Paul
Jason Pierre-Paul
Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Giants have decisions to make on a number of unrestricted free agents this off-season. Over the next couple of weeks we will go through all of those players, a series we will refer to as 'keep or cut,' since that is basically what everybody calls series like these.

The biggest free-agent decision of all the Giants need to make involves the talented, in-his-prime, defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul.

Truth be told, it sounds like the Giants have already made their decision. Pierre-Paul, who turns 26 next month, isn't going anywhere.

"I would be very surprised if he was not a Giant next year," co-owner John Mara said of Pierre-Paul during his recent season-ending press conference.

Even if the Giants have to use the franchise tag to keep him in blue for another year while they figure out a long-term deal.

"That is certainly one of our options," Mara said. "I have no idea what his agent is going to do. Actually, I do I have a pretty good idea of what his agent is going to be asking for and whether we want to do that or franchise him is something we will have to fully discuss."

Tag vs. Long-Term Deal

We don't know exactly what the 2015 salary cap is going to be, but we know that it has been estimated to rise to around $140 million. A couple of months ago NFL insider Jason LaCanfora figured out franchise tag projections based on a cap of $142 million. Based on LaCanfora's projection the tag for defensive ends would be $14.68 million. Let's say for argument's sake that is pretty close and the tag ends up between $13 and $15 million for Pierre-Paul.

Is it smart for the Giants to do that? Remember Pierre-Paul' s recent "I think I am worth a lot of money" remark.Well, let's look at what Pierre-Paul will likely be asking for.

From Over The Cap, here is a chart detailing the top contracts for 4-3 defensive ends.

Defensive End Contracts

The biggest defensive end contract belongs, of course, to J.J. Watt of the Houston Texans, who plays in a 3-4. He has a six-year, $100 million deal with $20.87 million guaranteed.

Forget the Watt money. If you were the Giants would you be willing to pay Pierre-Paul somewhere between the $57 million, with $15.6 million guaranteed, that the St. Louis Rams are paying Robert Quinn and the $96 million with $24.9 million guaranteed the Buffalo Bills are paying Mario Williams? Or, would you just tag him at roughly $14 million and worry about that a year down the road?

That's the choice the Giants face with Pierre-Paul. After a 12.5-sack season, his best since his All-Pro year of 2011 when he had 16.5 sacks, are the Giants ready to commit long-term big money to JPP? Since he had injury-plagued down years in 2012 and 2013 do the Giants want to just tag him and make him do it again before they give him a mega-deal?

No matter whether you think Pierre-Paul's end-of-season surge, with nine sacks in the final five games, was a pure contract push. No matter whether you believe Pierre-Paul is a premier pass rusher, or just a good one. Fact is, 26-year-old defensive ends with the game-changing ability Pierre-Paul possesses don't grow on trees. It is hard to imagine that the Giants' defense could improve, and be playoff-caliber, without Pierre-Paul in 2015.

For me, it's an easy decision that the Giants have to keep him.

So, Giants fans what would you do? Franchise Tag? Long-term deal? Let him walk.