Now I don’t hate the Giants. I often root for them to perform well and feel bad for Eli for a lot of the criticism he undeservedly receives. So despite my disdain for the fanbase, I think placing the franchise tag on Jason Pierre-Paul might not be the right move for the team. For those who don’t know, the franchise tag is a 1 year contract worth an average of the top 5 salaries at that certain position (or 120% of the player’s previous salary, whichever one is higher). Now this is where Giants fans get up in arms about criticism of their team, but I don’t think JPP is that great of a player. Now I’m not saying he’s a bad player, but he’s typically heralded as an elite pass rusher when he’s really not. For argument’s sake I won’t delve into details about his rookie season, but I am going to explore each of his last 4 seasons and the stats behind those seasons.
Typically speaking, the main task for a 4-3 edge rusher is to accumulate sacks and/or QB pressures. When taking this into account, JPP was 2nd in sacks for this past season for all 4-3 Defensive Ends (only behind Mario Williams) with 12.5 and had 3 forced fumbles with 76 tackles as well. Due to this impressive performance (on paper) the Giants are considering using the franchise tag on him. Well I say, “hang on” Jerry Reese, it goes deeper than that. The Giants finished 6-10 this past season with only 1 of those wins occurring against a team with a .500 or better record. It’s no secret the team needs a lot of work headed into this offseason, so before they decide to attribute $15 million of precious cap space to one player, they may want to reconsider. When taking into account the Giants only have just over $17.5 million in cap room this offseason, they should to rethink this move.
In 2011 Jason Pierre-Paul had a breakout season as he recorded 16.5 sacks, 72 tackles, and 39 hurries (in 1,208 snaps) and teamed up with Justin Tuck/Osi to form one of the more feared D-lines in the league. It worked, as the Giants won their second SuperBowl in 4 years by putting Tom Brady on his ass in front of the whole world. Poised for dominance, JPP seemed to take a step back the following season only amassing 7 sacks and 40 tackles in 900 snaps (although he did have 45 pressures) as the Giants went 9-7. Even though he played in all 16 games, there is the rumor that JPP often played/s injured, which I will get into more detail later. In 2013 JPP had a shoulder issue that limited him to 12 games as he found himself shut down after a week 12 loss to the Cowboys. Possibly due to the shoulder issue, JPP was restricted to 583 snaps through those 12 games (For reference, he played 576 snaps in the first 10 weeks of 2012). Shoulder issue or not, he saw his playing time scaled back in 2013 as he failed to produce on the field. In those 12 games (583 snaps) JPP amassed a total of 2 sacks, 18 tackles, 0 forced fumbles, but he did get 23 hurries.
Now, onto this past season. Pierre-Paul had 12.5 sacks, 76 tackles, 3 forced fumbles, and 38 hurries in 16 games (981 snaps). An impressive performance on paper, even though it was another down season for the Giants as they had a 3-8 record heading into week 12. JPP’s stat splits before/after that week are below.
Stats heading into week 12: 3.5 sacks, 49 tackles, 1 forced fumble, and 23 pressures.
Stats over the last 5 weeks: 9.0 sacks, 27 tackles, 2 forced fumbles, and 15 pressures.
The Giants’ last 5 opponents were (in order): Jacksonville Jaguars (3-13), Tennessee Titans (2-14), Washington Redskins (4-12), St. Louis Rams (6-10), and the Philadelphia Eagles (10-6). According to the Football Outsiders Offensive Line Rankings, these teams’ respective pass protection rankings were: 32, 31, 26, 23, and 9 (consult chart below). You can follow the link above to see how they determined these rankings if you wish.
So for those counting at home in 4 of the Giants’ last 5 games they faced 4 of the bottom 10 offensive lines (in terms of pass protection) in the NFL. Those same 4 teams were already eliminated from playoff contention by the time they faced the Giants. Now this is all really subjective, but JPP’s play over the last 5 games is what I like to refer to as “stat-padding.” That’s 5 essentially meaningless football games in which he accumulated most of his “impressive” numbers. On top of trash–talking and then not showing up for those games (see box-scores), there is the injury bug as well. Now some people are going to throw the “injury” argument out there in his defense. However, try to think of it this way. If you feel the need to defend a player’s on-field performance every year with “he’s been injured” for whatever period of time, is that really a good attribute? It should work against JPP that he seems to be riddled with some sort of nagging injury year after year.
Now obviously he has ability to perform his job or he wouldn’t have been able to accrue these numbers in the first place. However, for a player that plays over 88% (This number I’m somewhat estimating because PFF only counted passing snaps in the chart below) of his snaps as the RDE in a 4-3 scheme, the results are mixed. Now I have certain qualms with the stats in the chart below, but one can guess the percentages would be roughly the same when accounting for the rest of his snaps. JPP isn’t really versatile, almost exclusively playing at the 5-tech and maybe occasionally at the wide-9 on the right side. He also has no moves, and if he can’t beat the left tackle off the edge, then he’s not getting inside. Nonetheless, I haven’t seen much to suggest he would fit in if the Giants were to change defensive scheme. Unless a player is really dominant as a 4-3 DE (i.e. Watt-level) I’d be cautious about handing them a large contract, especially one with heavy guarantees.
Now if the Giants want to go ahead and pay JPP $15 million by all means they should do that. However, the team needs a lot of help with their offensive line and linebacker corps (and possibly secondary too). So would you want to see your team tie up 85% of your salary space to one player? Now I understand that the franchise tag is mostly an extension for a team’s negotiating rights until they get a long-term contract in place. However, the franchise tag is typically reserved for essential personnel and star players that teams do not want to hit free agency. So if JPP is tagged by the Giants, he will likely have a long-term contract in place before long. So would I be angry if the Giants get JPP on a mid-level incentive based deal? No because that’s probably a pretty fair price to pay for someone who can be effective at times. However the Giants need to learn from their mistakes and not throw a JJ Watt-sized contract at JPP. Once one factors in the inconsistent play and injury concerns, they should want to avoid a long-term contract, especially one filled with heavy salary guarantees.
So do I think JPP is a bad player? No, but I think it would be wise for the Giants to avoid throwing an eight figure salary in his direction. Let the Raiders do their thing and vastly overpay for his services. Heed my advice NY Giants front office, look deeper than the superficial stats presented before you.
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