Wednesday is the first day NFL teams can use the franchise or transition tag on players, which means the New York Giants and Jason Pierre-Paul are on the clock. Teams have until 4 p.m. ET on March 1 to designate franchise or transition players. Would the Giants use the franchise tag on Pierre-Paul if a long-term deal appears unlikely?
How the tag works
A refresher, courtesy of SB Nation:
The franchise tag is essentially a one-year contract that guarantees a predetermined salary for players. The salary amount is set by the averaging the top five salaries by position, or if it’s higher, 120 percent of a player’s salary the previous season. So players like quarterbacks and defensive ends will have a much higher tag salary than positions like kicker or punter.
Teams can only use the tag once per year. There are three different types of tags a team can assign.
Exclusive: Just what the name implies. The player is locked into his team and cannot negotiate with any other team during the free agency period.
Non-exclusive: The player is allowed to negotiate with other teams, but if a competing team makes a free agent offer, the original team has the right to match it. If they don’t match the offer, they get two first-round picks in compensation. In other words, this is basically a convoluted trade scenario.
Transition tag: Similar to the non-exclusive tag, except the player gets paid an average of the top 10 salaries at his position, rather than top five. Transition-tagged players are free to negotiate with other teams, but unlike non-exclusive players, the original team gets no compensation if it fails to match an offer.
If a team tags a player the two sides have until July 15 to work out a long-term deal. Failing that, the player is locked into a one-year deal at the value of the tag for his position.
The Giants face a difficult decision with Pierre-Paul. The 28-year-old has been hoping for a big long-term pay day since the end of the 2014 season. The Giants initially tagged him in 2015 before his fireworks injury and he played on a one-year deal worth $10 million last season.
He is set to hit the open market March 9 for what could be his final chance at that rich long-term contract. The Giants are expected to make an effort to sign him before free agency begins.
The franchise tag for defensive ends is expected to be $17 million for the 2017 season. As Pat Traina pointed out during this week’s Big Blue Chat podcast, however, it would likely be in Pierre-Paul’s best interest to see what his value is on the open market.
Pierre-Paul has already said he won’t sign another one-year contract. If the Giants tag him, though, he won’t have much choice should he and the Giants not reach a long-term deal. It would be sign and play the season for the $17 million or hold out and perhaps sit out the season.
The Giants might have no choice
The 2017 salary cap is estimated at $168 million and the should are expected to have in the neighborhood of $33 million to spend, not counting the more than $5 million they will need to sign rookies. Quite obviously, chewing up half of that by tagging Pierre-Paul is something they would prefer not to do. That would seriously handicap their ability to make any other big moves.
Will they have a choice? NFL.com says “Letting him walk away in free agency, with defensive tackle Johnathan Hankins also up, would be even tougher.” SB Nation and SNY’s Ralph Vacchiano also believe the Giants will tag Pierre-Paul if they have to.
Problem is, as much as they might justifiably not be willing to give Pierre-Paul a deal similar to the five-year, $85 million ($52.5 million guaranteed) they gave Olivier Vernon a year ago, they can’t replace Pierre-Paul’s production. He finished with seven sacks in 12 games last year, is still one of the best 4-3 defensive ends in the league against the run and played nearly every snap until missing the final four games.
Romeo Okwara and Owa Odighizuwa can’t do what Pierre-Paul does. There is no free agent defensive end close to his ability level. What the Giants might be able to get from the draft is an unknown.
Neither side would be happy about using the tag, but if they don’t the Giants likely will have to face the very real possibility Pierre-Paul will be playing elsewhere next season.