(Editor’s note: Grades and analysis for this article may be updated as further details of the deal are reported.)
The New York Giants weren’t blessed with an overabundance of pass-rush in 2015, and what little they did have was scheduled to hit the open market, but they solved part of that problem by keeping Jason Pierre-Paul around on a one-year, $10.5 million contract.
In essence, that means the Giants managed to save around $5 million over the cost of franchise tagging him ($15.7 million), and still prevented him from hitting the open market, which any way you slice it, is pretty good business from the G-men.
Pierre-Paul would have been one of the league’s most sought after prospective free agents this time a year ago, but notoriously only recorded one sack last season after returning from the injury he suffered in a fireworks accident. He was forced to play with an ungainly cast on his hand, and because his sack numbers virtually disappeared, he was seen as a shell of his former self—but that really wasn’t the case. In truth, JPP’s play was actually extremely good once he got back on the field, despite the state of his injured hand.
While he notched just one sack, he also managed 41 total pressures and six batted passes, and was one of the league’s most productive pass-rushers over the second half of the season. The Giants have to assume that he will be better this year with experience of the limitations his hand creates, and another year of healing to that hand under his belt.
With Robert Ayers also scheduled to hit the open market, the Giants needed to do something to keep some semblance of pass-rush, and keeping JPP for at least a year makes the most sense.
For JPP’s part, he gets to stay in an environment he is comfortable with and play for the big payday he is due in 2017. He gets the opportunity to show he can still play with his hand in a cast and be productive, essentially just delaying the big-time contract he was on track to receive, and still earn $10.5 million in the process.
Looking a little deeper at the games he played in last season once he returned, the injury really didn’t affect his pass-rush at all. He managed 13 sacks in 2014, but the year before that, he was only able to notch two in more pass-rushing snaps than this past season. It didn’t even really affect the rate at which he missed tackles, with just five misses in 2015, and no games with more than one, versus a season with 11 misses the year before.
The area of his game most affected was his play against the run, where using his hands to stack and shed blockers became far more difficult. That was probably the best aspect of his play over his career, so it will be interesting to see how much of that play he can get back with a season under his belt. For the Giants, it may not matter that much, because they need him as much for his pass-rush as anything, and would likely happily take a downturn in his play against the run as long as he didn’t lose much as a rush threat.
This looks like a move that works out for both sides to see what Pierre-Paul can produce in the second season after his accident, and means that the Giants have locked up PFF’s No. 1 free agent for just $10.5 million before he even hit the open market.