This might be a first for our Big Blue View Mailbag, as all of this week’s questions came in via e-mail. Let’s get right to it.
tgmarks51 asks: If the Giants try to franchise JPP and he doesn't sign, do they still have rights to him ... Is he still a free agent and could possibly trade him for draft picks?
Ed says: If any player refuses to sign the franchise tag by the July 15 deadline he and his team can continue to negotiate a one-year deal, but nothing long term. The player can also, of course, just refuse to play. In that case, though, he gets nothing. As far as whether or not a player can negotiate with other teams once tagged, that depends. If a team uses the “exclusive” tag, no. If it uses the “non-exclusive” tag, yes. As for a trade, a player must sign his tender in order to be traded.
Doug Mahoney asks: In the past, we've all been told that Spags' defense only works with a great "field general" linebacker. Obviously, there was AP during the 07 run and there was a lot of talk about how great Beason was going to be in 2015 (and we know how that turned out). So what was the deal in 2017? I don't think that over the course of the entire year, I heard anyone talk about the importance of this role in relation to Spags' defense. And now, it seems like the consensus is that the entire linebacking crew is decent, pretty good, maybe a little above average, but by no means great. Was the defense re-oriented to not need this strong mental presence in the middle? Did a number of players step-up and not get the credit they deserved?
Ed says: I think any defense benefits from having a three-down “field general” type linebacker. With the increased emphasis on speed and three-, four- and five-wide receiver sets there are fewer and fewer of them. The Giants did not have a “Beason” in 2016. They did, however, have a group of smart, veteran linebackers who knew what they were doing. Kelvin Sheppard wasn’t great, but the Giants did credit him for his understanding and ability to line players up. Jonathan Casillas and Devon Kennard are also well-prepared players who can do that. The complexity of the “MIKE” position is probably the thing that kept B.J. Goodson off the field as a rookie. His time will come if he can show this spring that he really understands the defense now.
Michael Koopersmith asks: I hardly ever see any discussion of Eli Manning restructuring his contract to free up salary cap space (like Tom Brady seems to do every couple of years) so the Giants can be more active in free agency and/or re-sign their own players. What is the potential here? What are the chances of Manning restructuring his contract?
Ed says: This is a question that comes up year after year ... after year ... after year. Perhaps in the past you could argue that it could or should have happened, but now I really am not sure there is any point. Manning is now 36 and his time as the Giants’ franchise quarterback is running out. GM Jerry Reese has acknowledged that the Giants need to begin searching for an heir to Eli’s throne.
One of the things about re-structuring a contract like Manning’s is that teams will generally add years to a deal like his when they do that. Manning’s current contract has three seasons remaining, and each season it becomes a bit more palatable for the Giants to get out from under it if they were to choose that path.
Why would the Giants want to add years to his deal at this point when they are already planning for a future without him?
Jeff Marx asks: I understand why the Giants probably wouldn't want to tag JPP with the exclusive designation but why not use the non-exclusive one instead? If I understand it correctly Pierre-Paul would get to negotiate with everyone, JR would not have to worry about setting a market value for him and have the option of matching any offer to keep him and if JPP chooses to sign elsewhere the Giants receive 2 first round picks as compensation. Outside of signing him to a deal before he ever hits free agency I don't see how this wouldn't be a win-win for everyone involved.
Ed says: The Giants could do that, and I’m not saying they won’t. But, is it really a “win-win?” Do you really believe there is a team out there that would not only sign Pierre-Paul to a mega-contract, but deem him good enough to also surrender two first-round picks? I don’t. If you really want him, sign him to a long-term deal. Or give him the exclusive tag and make sure he stays. If you really want to keep him and you let him sign on offer sheet with someone else, you are letting another team dictate how much money you will pay Pierre-Paul and how long you will be tied to him. That’s not good business.
Steve Alessandrini asks: After making the high profile cuts of Cruz and Jennings, why haven't the Giants cut J.T. Thomas? The only reason I can come up with is they want to have some leverage in negotiating with Robinson.
Ed says: Steve, I think you answered your own question. I, too, expected to see the Giants part ways with Thomas by now, and I still think they will. But, Keenan Robinson, Kelvin Sheppard and Mark Herzlich are all free agents as of now. I believe Robinson is the only one who is a priority to re-sign.
Until, and unless, the Giants are able to bring Robinson back they have only Devon Kennard, Jonathan Casillas and B.J. Goodson at linebacker. Thomas offers them some protection. No harm keeping him for now and cutting him later if they are able to bring Robinson back.
Casey Grae asks: Between JPP and Hankins, which one do you think would be easier to replace from the inside and without a high draft pick or big free agency signing?
Ed says: I think I have been consistent when I have been asked this question previously. Defensive tackles are almost always easier to replace than defensive ends. Hankins is a good player, but he can’t do nearly as many things as Jason Pierre-Paul. In either case, I would think the Giants would have to supplement what they have somehow. The direct answer, though, is that Hankins is far easier to replace in my view.