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Should the Giants Consider to Franchise Jason Pierre-Paul?

By Dan Graziano, ESPN.com

Jason Pierre-Paul’s rookie contract with the New York Giants voided on Friday. Several of the contracts signed by players drafted in 2010, which was the last year of the previous CBA. It doesn’t affect Pierre-Paul’s status as a free-agent eligible player, which he still is and always was going to be. The Giants have been checking the  possibilities that they may have about keeping or not Jason Pierre-Paul inside the Giants roster. But can the Giants really afford to not re-sign the star defensive end?

Jason pierre

That decision is whether to (a) sign Pierre-Paul to the lucrative, long-term deal he seeks, (b) allow him to leave via free agency and replace him with some other high-end pass-rusher or (c) use the franchise player designation on him, effectively binding him to them for 2015 at a salary likely to be around $15 million once the final salary cap numbers are set.

In the case of Jason Pierre-Paul, the Giants would be wise to break with custom and slap that franchise tag on him for 2015. They have the cap room to carry Pierre-Paul at that price, especially with the cap projected to rise into the low $140 million range. They’re looking at about $14 million in cap room right now and could add about $16 million more to that if they extend Eli Manning’s contract and make some obvious roster/salary cuts such as Mathias Kiwanuka and Jon Beason.

Ever since the Giants don’t need to do a long-term deal with Pierre-Paul just to keep his 2015 cap number low, I don’t see the reason to do it at all. Pierre-Paul is immensely talented and still very young (he just turned 26 last month), but his career hasn’t been a consistent one. Brilliant in 2011 with 16.5 sacks in the Super Bowl season, Pierre-Paul had only 8.5 sacks total over the two years that followed. He was slowed significantly by injuries in both of those seasons, and missed five games with shoulder and back issues in 2013. Those two years give them legitimate reason to wonder about his ability to stay healthy.

Pierre-Paul has to deal with some injuries last season however, he played all 16 games, was stout against the run from start to finish and ended up with 12.5 sacks thanks to nine in his final five games.

That’s just not convincing enough, and since they can afford to do it, the right call here is to franchise Pierre-Paul and delay the decision by a year. Another strong season like the one he just had, and they can give him the long-term deal this time next year. Another head-scratching, injury-marred year and maybe they decide to go elsewhere. We know the situation with the coaching staff is up in the air after 2015, so making a long-range personnel decision on a player about whom they may not be fully convinced doesn’t make a lot of sense right now.

The risk is upsetting Pierre-Paul, who’d prefer to get a long-term, top-of-the-market pass-rusher deal. And he might be annoyed if franchised. But in the end, he’d also be a free agent again at 27 after making about $15 million in 2015, and I imagine he’d find a way to live with that scenario.

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