What if the New York Giants end up needing to replace Jason Pierre-Paul? That, certainly, is not a situation the Giants want to find themselves in heading into the 2017 season. With Pierre-Paul apparently seeking a mega-deal and a robust free-agent market likely for his services that could, however, be what happens.
Where would the Giants turn at defensive end if Pierre-Paul is not the book end for Olivier Vernon next season?
They could look internally. Romeo Okwara had one exceptional game after Pierre-Paul suffered a season-ending injury and he was used throughout the year as a situational pass rusher. Okwara, though, is still a former undrafted free agent who will only be 22 next season and has much to prove before he is counted on as a starting defensive end. Owamagbe Odighizuwa has had two injury-plagued seasons since being a third-round pick by the Giants in 2015, and has been unproductive when he has been healthy enough to play.
The 2017 NFL Draft? Even if the Giants were fortunate enough to land Taco Charlton of Michigan or Derek Barnett of Tennessee, players who appear likely to be selected in the middle to bottom portion of the first round, there is always a learning curve. What those players, or any rookie, might contribute in 2017 is a complete unknown.
That leaves free agency. Could Devin Taylor, a four-year veteran from the Detroit Lions, soften the blow of losing Pierre-Paul?
Taylor heads to free agency after a disappointing 2016 season in Detroit.
SB Nation’s Pride of Detroit called Taylor’s 2016 “irrefutably a disappointment.” POD said Taylor, starting for the first time, was impacted by an injury to Detroit’s best pass rusher, Ezekial Ansah. POD also wondered if Taylor might be “much better served as a rotational defender than a starter.”
Taylor, 27, had his best year in 2015 with seven sacks and 17 quarterback hurries. Given a larger role in 2016, he could not duplicate that performance. MLive.com, in fact, named Taylor the Lions’ biggest disappointment last 2016. MLive’s Nate Atkins wrote:
Devin Taylor entered the final year of his rookie contract in the kind of place many young players aspire to be. He was emerging as a pass rusher, a player who registered 7.5 the previous year despite not starting a game. He was in a full-time role now, eager to prove in a crucial season that he could be a player a new front office would want to keep around. ...
Instead, Taylor seemed to step backward. As one of the healthiest players on the club, starting all 16 games, Taylor managed just 4.5 sacks, and even that number seems to overstate his contributions. His pressures were woefully inconsistent and at times nonexistent. Instead of blossoming into the powerful defensive end the Lions were looking for, he looked more like a stiff player whose value lived almost solely in run support.
Pro Football Focus was not impressed with Taylor’s 2016, either, ranking him 108th out of 109 qualifying defensive ends.
Still, Taylor will only be 28 next season and has had some past success as a rotational player. Could he be useful to the Giants in combination with Okwara, Odighizuwa and perhaps a draft pick, at least giving the Giants a player with more upside than Kerry Wynn to share some of the burden?
Spotrac’s Market Value Tool estimates that Taylor might be able to expect a five-year, $35 million deal on the open market. That’s far less than what Pierre-Paul is likely to make and might give the Giants the ability to keep defensive tackle Johnathan Hankins, but also seems exorbitant for a player coming off such a poor season.
Might Taylor be the kind of player a team could get on a one-year “prove-it” deal? If so, and the Giants find themselves in a situation where they could use an experienced defensive end, would Taylor be worth a roll of the dice?