Jason Pierre-Paul

Giants Attempting To Retain Defensive Core

Defensive lineman Jason Pierre-Paul and Johnathan Hankins are both scheduled to become unrestricted free agents on March 9, but “word on the street” is the Giants will make a run at re-signing both players, according to Jordan Raanan of ESPN.com."<strong

[RELATED: Giants Will Not Re-Sign Larry Donnell]

New York’s interest in retaining Pierre-Paul has been relayed before, and isn’t surprising given that he graded as the league’s No. 13 edge defender according to Pro Football Focus, helping propel Big Blue to a second-place finish in defensive DVOA. However, as one of the better pass rushers available, JPP won’t be without suitors should he reach the open market, which is why the Giants could consider extending him the franchise tag before free agency begins.

The franchise tender for defensive ends is expected to come in near $17MM, so a tag for Pierre-Paul would eat up a decent chunk of New York’s ~$31.5MM in cap space. But given that JPP has indicated he won’t accept another one-year deal (after being forced to sign for a single season last March), the franchise tag gives the Giants another option to keep Pierre-Paul around, especially when the alternative is handing him an offer comparable with Olivier Vernon.

Hankins, meanwhile, doesn’t have the track record of a Pierre-Paul, but at age-24, he’s one of the youngest players set to hit the open market, a fact which will certainly entice clubs. Playing next to Damon Harrison in New York’s base 4-3 defense, Hankins managed 816 defensive snaps, 10th-most among tackles, but graded as just the No. 72 interior player among 127 qualifiers, per PFF. A franchise tag for Hankins — unlikely as it is — would cost roughly $13.5MM.

The Giants spent the fourth-most cap space on defensive linemen in 2016, and if Pierre-Paul and Hankins are re-signed, may dart to the top of that particular ranking in 2017.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

2017 NFL Franchise Tag Candidates


Starting today, NFL teams will be able to place franchise and transition tags on potential free agents for the first time. While the window for franchise tags is open, most clubs won’t actually tag any players right away.

As our list of important dates for the 2017 offseason shows, the deadline for teams to assign those tags doesn’t come until Wednesday, March 1st. Usually, when it comes to NFL contract discussions, deadlines spur action, so teams will wait until that deadline approaches to officially use franchise tags, once it becomes clear that they won’t be able to strike a longer-term deal yet with their respective free-agents-to-be.

Even though the action might not heat up for a couple more weeks, it’s worth taking a closer look at what to expect during 2017’s franchise tag period. The NFL hasn’t officially announced the salary cap figure for 2017, but former agent Joel Corry of CBSSports.com recently projected the 2017 franchise tag salaries based on a presumed $168MM cap. Here are the expected non-exclusive franchise tag amounts:

  • Quarterback: $21.395MM
  • Running back: $12.377MM
  • Wide receiver: $15.826MM
  • Tight end: $9.894MM
  • Offensive line: $14.444MM
  • Defensive end: $16.955MM
  • Defensive tackle: $13.468MM
  • Linebacker: $14.754MM
  • Cornerback: $14.297MM
  • Safety: $10.961MM
  • Punter/kicker: $4.863MM

(For a refresher on the characteristics of the exclusive and non-exclusive franchise tags, as well as the transition tag, be sure to check out PFR’s glossary entry on the subject.)

Here’s our look at the most likely candidates to be tagged, along with several more outside possibilities:

Virtual Locks:

Chandler Jones, DE, Cardinals: Maybe Jones should headline a category titled “Super Duper Virtual Locks.” In January, coach Bruce "<strongArians said that the Cards would apply the franchise tag to Jones if they were unable to immediately lock him up to a long-term deal. Then, just this week, Cardinals president Michael Bidwill offered additional confirmation of that plan. The $16.955MM tag will be applied to Jones in the next couple of weeks and the two sides will then have until the summer to work out a long-term deal. The odds of a longer pact coming together seem pretty good, considering the Cardinals knew what they were getting themselves into when they traded for Jones last year.

Kawann Short, DT, Panthers: Panthers head coach Ron Rivera admits that Short will “probably” be tagged and, unlike ex-teammate Josh Norman, Short doesn’t have a problem with it. The 28-year-old was the third-best defensive tackle in the NFL last year, according to Pro Football Focus, and the Panthers will gladly pay him ~$13.5MM on a one-year deal. A multi-year agreement could require an average annual value of $17MM, so our early guess is that Short will wind up actually playing on the tender.

Le’Veon Bell
, RB, Steelers: We’ve known for a while now that the Steelers will use the franchise tag on Bell. For all of his off-the-field headaches, Bell still stands as one of the league’s most dynamic running backs and a one-year, $12.3MM deal would suit Pittsburgh just fine. Sometime after the tag is in place, we’re expecting the two sides to agree on a long-term deal. As I wrote in our most recent edition of the Free Agent Power Rankings, Bell will top LeSean McCoy‘s ~$8MM AAV and Doug Martin‘s $15MM in guarantees on a new multiyear pact. Of course, other factors such as cash flow will be pivotal in talks, particularly given the limited shelf life of running backs.
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Extra Points: JPP, Schaub, Garoppolo

Placing the estimated $16.955MM franchise tag on defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul wouldn’t be ideal for the Giants, but they’ll have no other choice if they can’t reach a deal with the pass rusher by March 1, writes Ralph Vacchiano of SNY. While tagging Pierre-Paul would take a major bite out of the Giants’ cap room, it would keep an integral piece of their defense from hitting the open market and enable the team to continue working to re-sign him. That would be the Giants’ plan, per Vacchiano, who notes that the club would regard the tag as a placeholder in Pierre-Paul’s case. The Giants are currently pushing to re-sign JPP and will have until July 15 to reach a long-term agreement if they make him their franchise player.

More from around the NFL:

  • Falcons backup quarterback Matt Schaub, a pending free agent, is a candidate to serve as a stopgap starter in San Francisco next season. Regardless of whether it comes with the 49ers, the soon-to-be 36-year-old will go into free agency seeking a starting opportunity, he told Vaughn McClure of ESPN.com. Although Schaub is a two-time Pro Bowler with three 20-touchdown pass seasons on his resume, he hasn’t been particularly effective since 2012 and has spent the past three years as a reserve with three different teams. In 10 starts dating back to 2013, Schaub has tossed seven interceptions that have been returned for touchdowns. Clearly, then, there’s nothing in Schaub’s recent history to suggest he’d perform well as a starter in 2017.
  • With five-time Super Bowl champion Tom Brady not looking to retire anytime soon, an offseason trade of Patriots No. 2 quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo seems like a lock, observes Ryan Hannable of WEEI.com. The Bears and Browns – two teams that have extensive histories of trading with the Pats – stand out as the best fits, opines Hannable. The two have drawn connections to Garoppolo in recent weeks, and Hannable points out that each club has the necessary draft capital to acquire Garoppolo. The Browns, for instance, have five of the draft’s top 65 picks. The Bears aren’t quite that rich with selections, though they do possess three of the first 67 choices.
  • Steelers wide receiver Sammie Coates announced Monday on Twitter that he underwent surgery on his pelvis. In theory, because the Steelers didn’t disclose the ailment on injury reports during the season, they could face NFL discipline, notes Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com. Pittsburgh is already under league investigation for not listing running back Le’Veon Bell‘s groin issue on playoff injury reports, though it seems unlikely the league will punish the team. After all, the Seahawks got off scot-free despite withholding information on Richard Sherman‘s ailing MCL in 2016. Further, Coates’ injury didn’t affect his participation in practice during the season, a source told Fowler.

Giants Will Push To Re-Sign JPP

The Giants are parting with wide receiver and Victor Cruz and running back Rashad Jennings, whose releases will save the club $10MM in cap space. New York will attempt to use some of that money to retain its best pending free agent, defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul, as Mike Garafolo of NFL.com reports the team will “make a legitimate run” at re-signing JPP before the market opens March 9 (via Chris Wesseling of NFL.com).

Jason Pierre-Paul

At this time a year ago, Pierre-Paul was coming off a season limited to eight games and one sack as he tried to move on from a gruesome July 2015 fireworks accident. Thus, he settled for a one-year pact last offseason to remain a Giant. Now that he has reestablished himself as one of the NFL’s premier pass rushers, Pierre-Paul is unwilling to take another one-year deal and could target a contract similar to the one teammate Olivier Vernon signed with the Giants last offseason. Then a free agent, Vernon inked a five-year, $85MM deal featuring $52MM in guarantees.

Vernon signed in advance of his age-26 season and had posted four straight 16-game campaigns, whereas Pierre-Paul is a bit older (28) and has missed 12 contests over the past two years. Pierre-Paul played in 12 games before his 2016 ended in December on account of core muscle surgery, though he showed well with seven sacks and three forced fumbles. Pierre-Paul also ranked 13th among Pro Football Focus’ 109 qualified edge defenders and totaled the league’s 15th-most QB hurries (24).

Pierre-Paul has clearly set himself up for a raise, one that could lead the seven-year Giant to a new franchise, though Big Blue has used the franchise tag on him in the past and could do so again. At an estimated $16.955MM, the tag will be worth around $7MM more than Pierre-Paul’s $10MM salary from last season.


Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

PFR’s 2017 Free Agent Power Rankings 2.0

For 30 of the NFL’s 32 teams, the offseason is already underway. Here is the latest installment of our 2017 NFL Free Agent Power Rankings, which is comprised only of upcoming unrestricted free agents, and is ranked by projected guaranteed money. In parentheses next to each player, you’ll find their position in the early January edition of the rankings. For more, check out our master list of all 2017 free agents.

Free Agent Power Rankings 2 (vertical)

1. Kirk Cousins, QB (1): Cousins may not be the best player on this list, but he will come away with the most guaranteed money of any free agent this offseason. Quarterbacks are perpetually in high demand and short supply and as a result Cousins could become one of the league’s three highest paid signal callers. Because Washington has already used the franchise tag on Cousins, a repeat would cost them a whopping $23.94MM for 2017. The belief is that Cousins is seeking that $23.94MM number as an AAV goal. There has been talk of the Redskins shopping their star QB, but the team has since publicly stated its intention of locking him up to a long-term dealKirk Cousins (vertical)

2. Chandler Jones, LB/DE (2): Jones has been an absolute stud ever since entering the league as a first-round pick in 2012. If we go by the numbers at Pro Football Focus, 2016 was actually Jones’ best year to date. This past season, he finished out with a strong 87.4 overall score, tying him for seventh amongst all edge rushers with Houston’s Whitney Mercilus. In the previous four seasons with New England, Jones averaged a 79.38 on PFF. Every team could use a sack machine like Jones, but coach Bruce Arians says the Cardinals will place the franchise tag on him if they cannot agree on a long-term deal. He’s technically ticketed for unrestricted free agency, but it doesn’t sound like Jones is going anywhere.

3. Kawann Short, DT (3): Unlike former teammate Josh Norman, Panthers defensive tackle Kawann Short says he won’t have any problem signing the franchise tender if the team tags him. “I wouldn’t fight it or anything,” said Short in early January. In 2016, he turned in his fourth straight 16-game season and ranked as Pro Football Focus’ fourth-best interior defender. Short, 28 this week, also had six sacks on the year. I think the Panthers would be wise to hit Short with the ~$13.468MM franchise tag or sign him to a long-term deal, but there is at least a non-trivial chance of him reaching the open market.

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Giants’ JPP Targeting Olivier Vernon Money

Pending Giants free agent Jason Pierre-Paul wants to match or exceed his defensive linemate Olivier Vernon‘s five-year, $85.5MM contract, a source tells Ralph Vacchiano of SNY.Jason Pierre-Paul

[RELATED: Top 3 Offseason Needs — New York Giants]

Pierre-Paul has made significant progress since his infamous fireworks mishap in 2015, and was seemingly back to his old self during the 2016 campaign. In 12 starts, JPP managed seven sacks, finished 14th in the league with 24 quarterback hurries, and graded as the NFL’s 13th-best edge rusher (one spot ahead of Vernon), according to Pro Football Focus.

Given that he’s already asserted his refusal to accept another one-year deal, Pierre-Paul could certainly land a hefty contract on the open market, and even come close to Vernon’s $40MM in guarantees. However, JPP is now three years older than Vernon was when he signed his mega-deal in 2016, and age is typically an important factor in long-term pacts. Clubs could be unwilling to lock Pierre-Paul up into his early-thirties given his recent injury history (the hand notwithstanding, JPP required surgery for a groin ailment at the end of last season).

Vernon is already the highest-paid defensive end in the league by a wide margin, meaning Pierre-Paul would claim that title if he’s able to surpass Vernon’s $17MM yearly average.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

JPP: I Won’t Sign Another One-Year Deal

Last year, Jason Pierre-Paul found that teams were “hesitant” to offer him a long-term deal and he wound up re-signing with the Giants on a one-year pact. Now that he has delivered for two consecutive seasons since damaging his hand in the infamous fireworks accident, the defensive end is not willing to accept another prove-it deal. Jason Pierre-Paul (vertical)

[RELATED: PFR’s 2017 NFL Free Agent Power Rankings]

I’ve done proved it … There’s not a guy like me doing it with seven-and-a-half fingers,” Pierre-Paul said (Twitter link via Mike Garafolo of NFL.com).

It’s hard to argue. On the year, JPP ranked as Pro Football Focus’ No. 12 edge defender, placing him just ahead of the Seahawks’ Michael Bennett, high-priced teammate Olivier Vernon, and a host of other big name players. JPP’s overall score of 86.2 is his best showing since 2012 and it’s clear that he is just as menacing now as he was back when he had all ten digits. This year, JPP had 53 total tackles and seven sacks in just 12 games.

JPP, unfortunately, suffered a groin injury late in the season and was forced to go under the knife in December. The Giants got smoked by the Packers on Sunday, but the veteran says that he would have been able to play had the Giants advanced to the next round (Twitter link).

Pierre-Paul was listed in the honorable mention section of our latest Free Agent Power Rankings. If, as expected, a few players in the top ten re-sign with their respective teams before the start of free agency, JPP is a good bet to make the top ten.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

PFR’s 2017 Free Agent Power Rankings

The regular season is over and, for most teams, the offseason is underway. Here is the latest installment of our 2017 NFL Free Agent Power Rankings, which is comprised only of upcoming unrestricted free agents, and is ranked by projected guaranteed money. In parentheses next to each player, you’ll find their position in the November edition of the rankings. For more, check out our master list of all 2017 free agents.

2017 Free Agent Power Rankings With Text (vertical)

1. Kirk Cousins, QB (1): In 2015, Cousins established himself as a solid NFL quarterback. That summer, the Redskins told Cousins they wanted him to prove it all over again before giving him a monster contract. Cousins was happy to oblige and he has now increased his value even further. After a so-so start to 2016 season, Cousins closed out strong to finish as Pro Football Focus’ No. 8 ranked QB, putting him ahead of notables such as Matthew Stafford, Ryan Tannehill, Andy Dalton, Ben Roethlisberger, Cam Newton, and Philip Rivers. All of those players have gotten their big pay day and now it’s time for Cousins to join the club. "<strong

2. Chandler Jones, LB/DE (2): Before you start salivating over the idea of Jones joining your favorite team’s front seven, we have some bad news: Bruce Arians says the Cardinals will place the franchise tag on him if they cannot agree on a long-term deal. Whether it’s on a one-year, $16.955MM deal or a multi-year contract that tops Olivier Vernon‘s Giants deal, it sounds like Jones is staying put. Jones, 27 in May, played in all 16 games this year and racked up 11 sacks.

3. Kawann Short, DT (4): Contract talks between the Panthers and Short stalled last summer and Fletcher Cox‘s market-boosting deal with the Eagles didn’t help matters. Short wound up playing 2016 for peanuts ($1.473MM) and he turned in yet another stellar season. Short was the fourth-best interior defender in the league this season, per Pro Football Focus, and his 87.7 overall score was roughly the same as his 2015 mark, even though he had five less sacks. In June, it was said that the Panthers did not want to go too far beyond an average annual salary of $15MM. If he’s not franchised tagged or signed to a long-term deal by Carolina, there are a few teams that will happily go beyond that point.

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Extra Points: Giants, JPP, Raiders, McGloin

Let’s go coast-to-coast for some news from around the NFL:

  • Despite a report that Jason Pierre-Paul could return for the divisional round and possibly even Wild Card weekend, the timeline has not changed for the Giants star, a source tells Paul Schwartz of the New York Post. That means JPP is still looking at a conference round return as his best-case scenario. The defensive end is still just one month removed from sports hernia/groin surgery.
  • The Raiders are going forward with the expectation that quarterback Connor Cook starts against the Texans, sources tell Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (on Twitter). Matt McGloin is not believed to be ready for this weekend’s playoff game. If McGloin cannot go, it sounds like Oakland will have quarterback Garrett Gilbert on the active roster as the backup.
  • The Raiders worked out seven players Monday including running back LaMichael James, but no quarterbacks (Twitter link via Adam Caplan of ESPN.com). defensive end Alex Bazzie, linebacker Brandon Hepburn, safety Dion Bailey, and cornerback Greg Ducre also auditioned, Adam Caplan of ESPN.com tweets.

Latest On Giants’ Jason Pierre-Paul

The Giants still have a glimmer of hope that Jason Pierre-Paul could return in time for Wild Card weekend, sources tell Jordan Raanan of ESPN.com. However, the team is feeling more confident about his ability to play in the divisional round of the playoffs, if the Giants reach that point. Jason Pierre-Paul

JPP has missed several games with a groin injury and he was forced to go under the knife in early December. At the time, the hope was that he could possibly suit up for the NFC Championship game. He seems to be a little ahead of schedule at this juncture. Of course, JPP is no stranger to beating long odds. Many wrote him off before the 2015 season when he lost a finger in a fireworks accident, but he looks as good as ever with nine digits.

Pierre-Paul is having one of his best NFL seasons ever. Currently, Pro Football Focus has him ranked as the tenth-best defensive end in the league. That’s two spots ahead of high-priced teammate Olivier Vernon.

At 10-5, the Giants are locked into the No. 5 seed in the playoffs. They will play the Lions, Packers, Seahawks, or Falcons in the opening round.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.