INDIANAPOLIS -- Ben McAdoo was thrilled to learn that Jason Pierre-Paul would be back with the Giants and he was unconcerned with the nearly $17 million cost. And never mind that the cost is more than half of the Giants' available cap space.
McAdoo believes that won't hinder the Giants as they go about their offseason business at all.
"No," he said. "We evaluate the free agents. We went through that process, had some meetings on it, and you take a look at free agency, and if you have a chance to hit with some clean players that you feel good about that can make you better, then you take your shot. If not, you move on and you look forward to the draft."
That's a fair and business-like approach to free agency, but the reality for the Giants could be somewhat different. They were projected to have roughly $32-33 million in available cap space to spend this offseason, but that was before they put the $16.934 million "franchise tag" on JPP.
They did that, according to a team source, with the hope that they'd be able to strike a long-term deal with the 28-year-old pass rusher before the free-agent signing period opened March 9 - a deal that would undoubtedly reduce the first-year cap cost.
"We want to get him signed long-term," Giants co-owner told Newsday on Wednesday. "But we had to [franchise him] to protect ourselves. Hopefully we'll be able to reach an agreement.
"But I can't say it's imminent."
A source familiar with the talks agreed that the two sides weren't close, and that at the moment a deal seemed unlikely in the next week. The two sides were likely to speak at the NFL scouting combine this week, though, and negotiations tend to move quickly when deadlines near.
Mara conceded that $16.934 million "is a high number", but he added "that doesn't mean it has to be the average [of a long-term deal] going forward." In fact, Mara said, "It ain't going to be that going forward" - which if true would mean JPP won't get the five-year, $85 million contract that the Giants gave defensive end Olivier Vernon last year.
Still, Mara said JPP is "an important part of our team" and "he gave us a huge boost" last season.
"Having him on one side and Vernon on the other gives us a nice pair of bookend pass rushers," Mara said. "Plus, he's a positive influence. He's a very good young man, very popular. He's the type of guy you want on your team."
"It's great to have JPP around," McAdoo said. "We think highly of him. Obviously (the franchise tag) is the business part of the equation. I try to stay out of that as much as I can. But Jason's a great part of the team, someone who made some progress last year and it'll be good to have him back."
It's also good, McAdoo said, because it's another step in keeping the Giants' defense together for at least one more season. And while the defense was fantastic last season - rising from 32nd in the NFL in 2015 to 10th in the league in 2016 - McAdoo is expecting even more from them next year.
"The defense made a lot of progress last year," McAdoo said. "We added some guys to the mix who were talented men of integrity, tremendous character. They played hard. It was important for them to see each other have success. That was a big part of things.
"But at the same point in time, we're not looking to play defense the way we played defense last year. We're looking to get better. We can't show up thinking we have everything figured out on the defensive side of the ball. We need make gains -- marginal gains, maybe 1 percent gains. But we need to generate those. We can't be too big to do the little things. And that needs to show up the first day we get together in April."