The New York Giants biggest decision this offseason will be figuring out whether or not Jason Pierre-Paul will be worth the money he desires.
Pierre-Paul has said he wants to be paid like an elite pass rusher. J.J. Watt is the highest paid defensive end in the league, earning $16.6 million annually, followed closely by Mario Williams who makes $16.1 million annually. Robert Quinn is third, with $14.2 million.
After those three is a group of ends who make between $10 and $13 million, composed of Charles Johnson, Calais Campbell, DeMacus Ware, and Chris Long. Pierre-Paul will command upwards of $10 million, but where is still unknown until he hits the open market.
ESPN’S Dan Grazziano has estiamted he could be in store for a contract slightly smaller than Robert Quinn’s $14.2 million a year, for somewhere between 4-6 years. The Giants could have around $15 million dollars of cap space to spend this spring, but that number could rise.
The salary cap is expected to go up, and the Giants are expected to terminate the contracts of Mathias Kiwanuka, David Wilson, J.D. Walton, and Peyton Hillis. Also, they could attempt to restructure the contracts of Eli Manning, Jon Beason, and Victor Cruz. That could give them around $30 million dollars to spend.
That is still a hefty investment in one player, and the Giants have to make sure they do not overpay him. They have many needs they must fill, so going out and using a massive amount of cap space on one player would not be prudent.
This past season, Pierre-Paul finished with 12.5 sacks, 3 forced fumbles and 77 tackles, and Pro Football Focus rated him as the 7th best 4-3 defensive end in the league. Pierre-Paul also was solid on the run, coming up with 31 stops, the second most out of any 4-3 defensive end.
Arguably Pierre-Paul’s biggest strength is his body, with his size and speed combination something very few players possess.
Despite this, he still has been a very inconsistent player throughout his career. The stats show that.
2010 (16 games): 30 tackles, 4.5 sacks. .81 tackles per game, .28 sacks per game
2011 (16 games): 86 tackles, 16.5 sacks. 5.3 tackles per game, 1 sack per game.
2012/2013/first 11 weeks of 2014 (38 games): 143 tackles, 12 sacks. 3.7 tackles per game, .32 sacks per game.
Final five games of 2014: 27 tackles, 9 sacks. 5.4 tackles per game, 1.8 sacks per game.
Pierre-Paul has had stretches of brilliance, but also stretches of average to mediocre play which have taken up much more time then his brilliant stretches.
Pierre-Paul was not even the best pass rusher on the Giants for much of the past season. Robert Ayers had 5 sacks in 12 games in much less playing time then Pierre-Paul. Pro Football Focus gave Pierre-Paul an 8.9 pass rush productivity rating, compared to the 15.2 rating Ayers got, which was tops in the league for 4-3 DE’s. Even Damontre Moore was better from that standpoint, having an 11.3 rating.
Under Perry Fewell though, the Giants pass rush as a whole struggled for the first 11 weeks of the season before he began dialing up more blitzes, which benefited Pierre-Paul greatly. With Steve Spagnulo now in charge of the defense, expect to see more blitzing from the Giants. This could greatly benefit Pierre-Paul, as pass rushers seem to thrive in Spagnuolo’s system, which Pierre-Paul could anchor.
Osi Umenyiora had 13 sacks in his lone season with Spagnulo, the second highest total of his career. In Justin Tuck’s two seasons, he had 10 and 12 sacks. The latter was the highest of his career, with the former being the 4th highest. Even as a head coach in St. Louis, Spagnuolo helped mold Jake Long into a feared pass rusher. He had 26.5 sacks in his three seasons under Spagnulo, including his single season high of 13. In his four seasons without Spagnulo, he has just 25 sacks.
The Giants best option would be to try and sign Pierre-Paul to a long term deal, rather than franchise tagging him, which would cost them a large sum of $15 million, wiping out more than half their salary cap room.
Players with the ability of Pierre-Paul and his unteachable traits of size and speed rarely come around, and the Giants can’t let one of the few just leave. Re-signing Jason Pierre-Paul for the right price should be ranked highly on the Giants checklist for this offseason.