Earlier this month Joel Corry, former sports agent and current CBS Sports salary cap analyst, told me he expected New York Giants defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul to command “at a minimum” a five-year, $75 million deal on the free-agent market. Corry could be right.
A report from Ralph Vacchiano of SNY states that Pierre-Paul “has his eyes set on at least the five-year, $85 million deal (with $52.5 million guaranteed) the Giants gave Olivier Vernon. Given the number of teams with cap space to spend who are likely to be looking for a pass rusher -- including the Cowboys -- he might end up with more.”
Would the Giants be willing, or able, to give Pierre-Paul a contract that equals or surpasses the one they just gave Vernon? Should they? Estimates vary on the cap space the Giants may have for next season. Using $168 million as the anticipated salary cap for 2017, Spotrac says around $32 million, while Over The Cap estimates $23 million. Those numbers are fluid, anyway, so use them only as a guideline.
Obviously, the Giants would love to have Pierre-Paul in their lineup for the next several seasons. He’s a terrific player and his overall skill set as a pass rusher, run defender and team leader would be virtually impossible to replace in the short term.
Pierre-Paul, though, is not the Giants’ only consideration. There is Johnathan Hankins. With Vernon and Damon Harrison already signed to huge contracts, how much money can the Giants tie up in defensive linemen? There is a long-term deal for Justin Pugh. There is finding help for the offensive line on the free-agent market.
There is also this. Vernon is 26 and has never missed a game in his five-year career. Pierre-Paul is 28 with a lot of mileage. He has, of course, the damaged hand. He has played only 69 of a potential 95 regular-season games in his career, and has played a full season just once in the last four years. In addition to this year’s sports hernia, he has had back and shoulder issues.
It’s fair to wonder about his longevity, and to wonder if investing “Vernon money” in him is smart.
With all of that preamble, let’s look at five teams who might be willing to outbid the Giants for Pierre-Paul’s services.
This one is brutally obvious. Benson Mayowa led Dallas with six sacks last season, so they have a clear need for a dominant defensive end. You also have to know Jerry Jones would love to snatch a premier player away from the Giants. Per OTC, Dallas is an estimated $8.9 over the cap, but they could clear $24.7 million by trading Tony Romo and will likely make other moves to clear cap space.
Speaking of people who would love to snatch a premier player away from the Giants, Tom Coughlin now runs the show in Jacksonville. Just the thought of sticking it to the Giants by signing Pierre-Paul is probably enough to make TC do jumping jacks in his office. Besides, Pierre-Paul would make the Jaguars better. And Jacksonville has money to burn, with OTC estimating they currently have $64 million in cap space. Plus, Pierre-Paul is a Florida native.
The Raiders are a team built to win now, with the unfortunate injury to Derek Carr wrecking their 2016 postseason hopes. Despite the presence of Khalil Mack, the Raiders had a league-worst 25 sacks in 2016. How dynamic would the combination of Mack and Pierre-Paul on the same side be? OTC estimates the Raiders having more than $46 million in cap room.
The Dolphins are another Florida team. There has been speculation the Dolphins will move on from Mario Williams, and Cameron Wake is 34, so there is a need at defensive end. The Ndamukong Suh deal (six years, $114.375 million) proved the Dolphins aren’t afraid to spend. OTC estimates Miami will have more than $30 million under the cap.
I went back-and-forth on this one. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Detroit Lions seem like team that could also be suitors for JPP, but I will put the Bills here. They have a new coach in Sean McDermott, who was defensive coordinator for the Carolina Panthers. It figures that Buffalo will move to the 4-3 full time, and that they might want to make a splash. Pierre-Paul would accomplish that, and obviously also help them on the field. The Bills are estimated by OTC to have $23 million in cap space.