Each week, SNY will put a current player, a position, or perhaps a draft or free agent target of the Giants in the spotlight as part of our regular offseason coverage. This week we begin with the intriguing figure that may hold the key to all of the Giants' offseason plans:
DE Jason Pierre-Paul.
The Giants have made it clear that they want Jason Pierre-Paul back, but of course it's not that simple. In fact, he might be the most complicated free agent of all.
On the surface, who wouldn't want JPP? He's 28 years old and a freakish athlete. He had seven sacks in 12 games last season and was more disruptive than the numbers would indicate. He was an outstanding run-stopper as well. The Giants were able to do so much with JPP on one side and Olivier Vernon on the other.
When JPP got hurt, their pass rush just wasn't the same.
So of course they want him back. But the price of the top pass rusher on the market is often high. And in this case the Giants set the bar a year ago when they signed Vernon to a five-year, $85 million deal with $52.5 million guaranteed. Pierre-Paul is understandably grateful to the Giants for sticking by him when he blew off half his hand in a fireworks accident two summers ago. But that injury cost him a long-term contract in 2015 and it kept him from taking advantage of his free agency in 2016 too.
JPP has made it clear that after missing out on the big pay day twice he wants to test the market. And a source has told SNY he's got his eyes set on a Vernon-like deal.
Will he get it? This is where it gets complicated. Because as good as JPP is, he is missing part of his right hand, and he's also now coming off sports hernia and groin surgery that cost him the final four weeks of the 2016 season. He also previously underwent back surgery. And while that happened four years ago, that's a lot of work that's been done on his body.
It's something teams will consider when deciding how much to commit to him long-term.
Also worth considering: He is probably the best defensive end on the market, and it might not be all that close. And there are a lot of teams who could use pass-rushing help who will have a lot more cap room to spend than the Giants.
The Giants do figure to have somewhere around $35 million or so in cap room, depending on where the cap is set and what cuts they make. But while that sounds like a lot consider that the expected franchise tag for defensive ends is projected to be around $17 million - or half of their available space. So that seemingly eliminates the possibility they can use that option.
Re-signing JPP would probably eat a minimum of $8-10 million of that space, depending on how the deal is structured. Replacing him with a free agent would cost in that neighborhood, though likely a little less. But consider that they have to re-sign or replace defensive tackle Johnathan Hankins too, and several other free agents. They also need one and maybe two offensive linemen, a tight end, and maybe a receiver.
They have a lot of needs and suddenly that doesn't look like a ton of money to spend.
That's what makes the JPP situation so interesting. Re-signing him is a no-brainer if the price is right, but it might be hard to get him to agree to the right price. He also might be irreplaceable on the defense. They certainly don't have a comparable player on the roster ready to step up and fill his shoes. They could find a lesser, more affordable free agent but it wouldn't be the same.
The expectation is they'll try to negotiate a reasonable deal before he hits the market on March 9, but won't get into a crazy bidding war if he does. Whatever they decide, it's the biggest decision they have to make this offseason. What they do with JPP will affect everything else they want to do to improve their team.