Last season was one fans probably don't want to remember when it comes to discussing the New York Giants' ability (or lack thereof) to rush the passer. Jason Pierre-Paul was clearly not the same punishing force he once was after returning from a fireworks accident that resulted in the amputation of a finger. Damontre Moore was released from the team in the middle of the season (and still finished second on the team in sacks!), and the Giants finished in the NFL's bottom three teams in sacks, in front of only the Buffalo Bills and Atlanta Falcons. If it wasn't apparent before, it was certainly apparent after the 2015 season: The Giants have a pass rushing problem.
Despite that, one player who did succeed on the defensive line was Robert Ayers Jr. The 30-year-old former first-round draft pick finished the season with 9.5 sacks, by far the best on the team and the best season of his NFL career. If you subtract the three sacks that Damontre Moore had, Ayers would have nearly half the total sacks of the entire team (20). Ayers made the biggest impact on the defensive line on a bad defensive front seven, so how much is he truly worth? Did his play contribute to Giants victories, or were his stats inflated?
That will be a question for the Giants front office to answer this offseason, and one key factor to Ayers either returning to New York or playing elsewhere will be the type of contract Ayers is looking for. Spotrac believes that the price Ayers can command, relative to his peers, will be north of $6 million annually over the span of three years.
The baseline for Ayers' next contract starts with players he compares with, both in age, contract and statistical breakdown. The four that Spotrac chose as relative to Ayers are former Giants star Justin Tuck, Seahawks defensive end Michael Bennett, Dolphins defense end Cameron Wake and Vikings defensive end Brian Robison. Each player's stats from the two years prior to their contract received in free agency, as well as the base calculated value of the four contracts, were accounted for in the breakdown. In terms of stats, while Ayers' variables in both tackling and hurries were lower than the combined variable percentage of Tuck, Bennett, Wake and Robison, Ayers had a better sack variable. Ayers did not get to the quarterback as often, but when he did get to the quarterback, he brought him down.
After adjusting the base calculated value due to the statistical comparisons of Ayers vs. the other four players, Ayers' projected calculated market value is a three-year contract worth more than $18.4 million dollars. That places the average annual value of the contract at more than $6.14 million.
According to Over the Cap, the Giants are projected to have $58 million dollars in cap space this summer. Should the Giants, who are expected to make a big splash in free agency, bring back Ayers if the price is more than $6 million per year? Let us know your thoughts, Giants fans.