The contract of New York Giants star defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul voids on Friday, making today a good day to discuss Pierre-Paul's impending free agency. Barring a new deal between JPP and the Giants, or the imposition of the franchise tag by the Giants, Pierre-Paul will hit the open market on March 10 when the free agency signing period begins.
We discussed Pierre-Paul's future with the Giants a little more than a month ago, when yours truly opined that "it's an easy decision that the Giants have to keep him."
From this vantage point, that remains the case. Let's take a fresh look, though, at the Giants' options for signing Pierre-Paul and at how they might go about trying to replace him if they somehow fail to bring him back to East Rutherford.
Franchise Tag vs. Long-Term Deal
Coming off a 12.5-sack season during which Pierre-Paul (+16.9 overall) was Pro Foootball Focus's seventh-ranked 4-3 defensive end, Pierre-Paul is going to want to get PAID. And make no mistake, the 26-year-old will get paid. Big-time. Face it, 26-year-old defensive ends with Pierre-Pauls' game-changing ability are not easy to find. If the Giants can't, or won't, pay him teams will be lining up for a chance to do so.
As a refresher, here is a look at the top contract for 4-3 defensive ends. It comes from Over The Cap.
To date there has been no inkling as to how much money Pierre-Paul will be looking for. You can bet, though, that it will be north of what Chris Long and Trent Cole are making. He will be justified in seeking that kind of money.
If the Giants aren't comfortable giving Pierre-Paul that kind of long-term deal and guaranteeing him somewhere in the neighborhood of $20 million, the franchise tag is an option.
History says the Giants are reluctant to use the franchise tag -- they have done so only three times since the tag came into existence in 1993. History is misleading, however, in this case. Two of the times the Giants have used the tag have come during the tenure of Jerry Reese as GM. The Giants used the tag on running back Brandon Jacobs in 2009 and punter Steve Weatherford in 2012. That indicates they are more willing to use it than they were previously.
Remember also that co-owner John Mara said at the end of the season that "he would be very surprised" if Pierre-Paul was not not back with the Giants next season and that the franchise tag "is certainly one of our options."
Salary cap expert and former sports agent Joel Corry estimates the tag would cost the Giants $14.681 million based on a projected salary cap of $142 million for 2015. If Corry is right that the cap will be $142 million, the Giants currently appear to be $18.45 million under that figure.
How Would The Giants Replace Him?
Reality is that the Giants probably can't find anyone else who could, immediately, do all the things for that that Pierre-Paul is capable of. Let's look at the options.
Free-agent defensive ends who could be headed to the open market include Justin Houston (Kansas City Chiefs), Jerry Hughes (Buffalo Bills), Greg Hardy (Carolina Panthers), Brian Orakpo (Washington Redskins), Brandon Graham (Philadelphia Eagles) and Derrick Morgan (Tennessee Titans).
Houston is the biggest name, and had 22 sacks in 2014, but he is really a 3-4 outside linebacker.
Hughes in intriguing. He had 9.5 sacks for the Bills in 2014 and his pass-rush productivity percentage of 10.5 was eight in the league, and better than Pierre-Paul's 8.9. Despite being only 255 pounds, PFF gave him run defense grades of +9.7 in 2014 and +4.5 in 2013. He is just 26.
Morgan played 4-3 defensive end for his first four seasons in Tennessee and transitioned well to a 3-4 outside linebacker in 2014. He isn't the impact player Pierre-Paul is, but might be an option if the Giants have to replace JPP.
Anyone else on the list intrigue you, Giants fans?
There are several defensive ends, or 'edge rushers' as many like to call them now, who could be intriguing draft prospects.
The one who seems at this point to be the most likely candidate for the Giants in the first round -- should they want to grab a defensive end -- appears to be Alvin 'Bud Dupree of Kentucky [No. 22 on our initial Big Board]. We have yet to profile Dupree, but will do so soon. Florida defensive end Dante Fowler is another player some like. Nebraska's Randy Gregory seems likely to be off the board before the Giants select.
Day 2 options could include Nate Orchard of Utah, Owamagbe Odighizuwa of UCLA and perhaps Lynden Trail of Norfolk State.
Remember, though, that there is likely to be a learning curve with any draft pick. Thus their immediate impact could be minimal.
The best scenario for the Giants is, of course, bringing Pierre-Paul back and adding pieces to Steve Spagnuolo's defense. Not, losing Pierre-Paul and scrambling to replace him.
At this time, I have to believe the Giants won't let Pierre-Paul slip away from them.