The Giants have yet to release an official statement on the injuries sustained by Jason Pierre-Paul over the weekend due to a fireworks mishap. Reports so far have indicated that Pierre-Paul’s career shouldn’t be in jeopardy, and he may still play this season. However, as Jordan Raanan of NJ.com writes, the hand injury is serious enough that JPP still remains in the hospital about 36 hours or so after the accident occurred.
Raanan notes in his piece that Pierre-Paul’s long-term health trumps the football aspect of the injury at this point, and the Giants are concentrating on their player’s health and mental well-being for now. Still, considering Pierre-Paul isn’t technically under contract at this point, the injury has the potential to have a significant impact on his upcoming deal, so the situation is worth a closer look. If the injury is determined not to be as serious as initially feared, it shouldn’t hugely reduce JPP’s potential earnings, but he certainly has less leverage today than he did last week.
Here’s where the contract situation currently stands: Pierre-Paul received the franchise tag from the Giants earlier this offseason, meaning the team automatically offered him a one-year, $14.813MM contract for 2015. Because the standout defensive end didn’t immediately sign that tender, he remains a free agent, and could sign an offer sheet with another team at any time. However, any interested club would have to part with two first-round picks to land him, so that possibility is minuscule. The most likely scenarios for Pierre-Paul, prior to the injury, were either playing out the 2015 season on his one-year franchise tag or reaching a multiyear contract agreement with the Giants by the July 15 deadline.
Before word of Pierre-Paul’s injury broke, I expected the two sides to ramp up negotiations in the next week or so before ultimately agreeing to terms on a long-term extension by next Wednesday. That could still happen, but the hand injury clouds the situation a little. Here are the various scenarios that we could see play out in the coming weeks:
- Pierre-Paul, Giants reach long-term contract agreement: As noted above, this remains a possible outcome. Perhaps JPP would have to accept a minor discount, but if his recovery timetable ends up being measured in weeks or months rather than years, his overall value shouldn’t be too diminished.
- Pierre-Paul signs franchise tender: As long as the franchise tender remains on the table, Pierre-Paul can sign it and assure himself a $14MM+ salary for 2015, perhaps electing to revisit discussions on a longer-team deal after the season. Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk observes that, because of the injury, a clause in the CBA would allow the Giants to terminate JPP’s contract and avoid paying him any of that $14MM+ salary, but that would mean making him an unrestricted free agent, which the Giants likely won’t be eager to do.
- Giants withdraw franchise tender: If the Giants were to withdraw JPP’s franchise tender before he signed it, they could attempt to negotiate a new deal with him at a lesser rate. But withdrawing that franchise tag would also allow the 26-year-old the freedom to sign anywhere, so the Giants would be taking a huge risk. There are still plenty of teams with a healthy amount of cap room who would be very interested in pursuing this sort of player if he were an unrestricted free agent.
- Giants place Pierre-Paul on non-football injury list: Another scenario detailed by Florio, this looks to me like the most probable outcome, whether or not the veteran pass rusher and the team reach a multiyear agreement. Because JPP sustained the injury while he was away from the Giants, the club would have the option to place him on the non-football injury list and not pay him until he recovers. Pierre-Paul and the NFLPA could try to fight the move, but their case would require medical evidence to show that the former first-rounder is healthy, and based on what we’ve heard over the last couple days, it doesn’t sound like that hand will fully heal anytime soon.
We’ll have to wait for official word on Pierre-Paul’s injury to know exactly how important a factor it will be in contract negotiations between the Giants and their franchise-tagged player. But for now, it’s hard to imagine the team committing a huge chunk of guaranteed money to JPP.