Making Sense of the Giants’ Decision to Franchise Jason Pierre-Paul

Is franchising Jason Pierre-Paul the right decision? 

The New York Giants are using the franchise tag to discourage potential suitors from courting defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul. What does it mean for the team, the player and for free agency?

Let’s explore the questions.

Who has the advantage?

On the surface, it might look like Pierre-Paul has the advantage over the Giants simply because absent him getting the long-term deal he so dearly wants, he doesn’t have to sign the franchise tag until July 15.

In the meantime, the estimated $17 million that it will cost to tag him comes out of the Giants estimated $31 million of cap space.

Advantage Pierre-Paul, right?

Not necessarily. The Giants can still re-work a few bloated contracts if they need to clear up some more money to re-sign other key free agents such as Johnathan Hankins and Keenan Robinson, and a still to be determined offensive tackle.

Some of those contracts that are no doubt in the team’s crosshairs include linebacker J.T. Thomas ($4 million), running back Shane Vereen ($4.9 million), and cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie ($8.5 million).

There is an outside chance they might even go to quarterback Eli Manning, though if they plan to do that, they would need to do so before March 11 when his $13 million base salary becomes fully guaranteed.

For those worrying that the Giants won’t have enough money to get done what they need to do, that might not necessarily be the case. But we won’t know that for a while.

What happens if the Giants and Pierre-Paul agree to a new contract by the franchise tag deadline on March 1?

The odds of that happening don’t look very good, but to play along, what the Giants will probably do is delay filing the league paperwork declaring Pierre-Paul as their franchise player until the last possible moment.

This way if they reach an agreement on a new deal, they can rescind the tag (which won’t have officially been applied), and they’ll have it available to use on Hankins, if they wanted.

For those wondering, Albert Breer of MMQB projected the franchise tag for a defensive tackle to come in at approximately $13.47 million.

Will the Giants be able to do what they need to in free agency?

Very few teams accomplish every single item on their free-agency checklists. It’s just how the cookie crumbles.

The good news is the Giants don’t have to get as much done in free agency this year as they did last year.

On defense, they have pretty much assured themselves of Pierre-Paul’s return, which obviously was a priority. They are believed to want Hankins back, but if someone comes along and offers him a Linval Joseph-type of contract, they can probably kiss Hankins goodbye.

They obviously need an offensive lineman, preferably a tackle. That’s a position that won’t come cheap, so for those dreaming of Andrew Whitworth in blue, that probably isn’t going to happen. (Russell Okung is probably the best option as of this writing, but NFL insider Jason LaCanfora reports teams are lining up to make a run at the veteran.)

They might also look to re-sign Keenan Robinson, their best cover linebacker last year, though after doing a little more work on the linebackers these past few days, it wouldn’t be the end of the world if they don’t.

NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock, on a conference call with reporters Monday, believes there are a handful of linebacker prospects that could spill into the second or third rounds of the draft.  More on that another time.

The cornerback class is also extremely deep should the giants want to upgrade some of their depth behind Eli Apple, Janoris Jenkins and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie.

On offense, the draft seems loaded in running backs, receivers and tight ends, all Giants needs. Offensive tackle, as previously mentioned, will probably come from free agency, and the Giants might take a flyer on a young quarterback only because there is no great sense of urgency for that youngster to step in on Opening Day as the starter (assuming Eli Manning stays healthy, of course);

With all that said, the Giants are in a little better position this year than last year even though they don’t have an abundance of cap space with which to work.