Franchise Tagging Jason Pierre-Paul Proves the New York Giants are all in on 2017
Sep 18, 2016; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; New York Giants defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul (90) celebrates a sack of New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees (9) during the first half at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Giants franchise tagging defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul signals that they’re all in for the 2017 NFL season.

After a disappointing end to the 2016 season, the New York Giants are going into the offseason on a mission — building upon their first playoff appearance since 2011. Currently, their roster is lacking a formidable and competitive offensive line, another receiving threat, and the future of their defensive line is in question; however, the short term future of defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul is no longer in question.

The New York Giants recently franchised tagged Pierre-Paul, paying him roughly 17 million for the 2017 season. Was this the right move for a guy with a questionable track record?

During the summer of 2015, Pierre-Paul suffered a freakish hand injury which resulted in him losing part of his fingers which derailed his 2015 season. Recording just a combined 26 tackles and only one sack in eight games, Pierre-Paul’s hand woes haunted him in the brief time he played for big blue in 2015. The pro bowl defensive end bounced back in 2016, though.

Last year, Pierre Paul recorded a combined 53 tackles and got to the quarterback eight times. However, injuries got to Pierre-Paul once more. After the Giants defeat in Pittsburg against the Steelers, it came out that Pierre-Paul suffered a sports hernia. That kept him sidelined for the remainder of the regular season, as well as the Giants Wild Card game versus the Green Bay Packers.

When you put it all together, was franchise tagging Pierre-Paul the right move? At first glance maybe not, but the Giants tagging him proves that they’re all in for the 2017 season.

Jason Pierre Paul is still one of the best pass rushers in the NFL, regardless of what injuries have done to him. When he steps foot on the field, he’s a man on a mission and a warrior. Pierre Paul nearly resembles what Justin Tuck did for the Giants as his career went on. He’s a leader.

The biggest concern though is whether his 2017 salary will serve as a roadblock to the Giants’ free agent plans.

Letting Pierre-Paul walk would’ve been a tough pill to swallow for the Giants, but the flip side of that is that their cap space takes a major hit. With Pierre-Paul projected to get paid about $17 million in 2017, the Giants are now left with roughly $14 million to spend when comes free agency later this month. That may be too small an amount to retain and/or add more talent to their roster.

Defensive tackle Jonathan Hankins is a player who may be a casualty of it. Hankins enjoyed a solid 2016, recording a combined 43 tackles, as well as 3 sacks. Free agent signee Damon Harrison and Hankins were a formidable tackle duo in 2016, however, Hankins is projected to land a deal which should see him paid handsomely given his young age and upside. Considering the limited cap space at their disposal, Hankins will likely be leaving the big apple in free agency.

Another factor in franchise tagging Pierre-Paul is what the Giants will now be prioritizing in free agency.

With Hankins likely leaving the Meadowlands, tackle Jay Bromley becomes the likely candidate to take his spot. While not a star in the making, Bromley has gotten some reps at defensive tackle. In 2015, Bromley recorded a combined 36 tackles. With Bromley likely filling in for Hankins, the Giants will also be on the lookout for some reinforcements, more so on the offensive line.

It’s no secret that the Giants offensive line was a disaster in 2016. According to pro football focus, the Giants had the 21st ranked offensive line in the NFL. That was mostly due to poor tackle play. Sophomore tackle Ereck Flowers struggled to hold his ground, and as the year progressed became a turnstile. Right tackle Bobby Hart also struggled to protect Eli Manning in the pocket.

Another factor in free agency is whether guard Justin Pugh resigns.

The Giants drafted Pugh in the first round of the 2013 draft. He’s been good, but not great, however, he and center Weston Richburg have been the Giants best lineman in recent years. Keeping him may have to be a priority, but the Giants will without a doubt need to add some talent from the outside as well. One guy who makes sense is former Broncos tackle Russell Okung.

Last year, Okung signed a multiyear deal with the Denver Broncos, however, Okung had a team option for the 2017 season, which the Broncos declined. As a result, Okung will hit the free agent market. The Giants could make for a great landing spot.

While the Broncos ultimately won the Okung sweepstakes, the Giants also pursued the pro bowl left tackle. This is the Giants chance to finally find their David Diehl 2.0 at left tackle. If the Giants can snag Okung, while also retaining Justin Pugh, their offensive line while not great, would be improved. If the Giants manage to sign both linemen, then they’d be looking at the draft, and internal development for other upgrades.

One guy who will likely get the nod to start is running back Paul Perkins. The Giants drafted Perkins in the fifth round of the 2016 NFL draft. He ended up being a steal. While not stellar, Perkins had a solid rookie season given his inconsistent reps. Averaging 4.1 yards per carry, Perkins was a solid force behind the Giants offensive line. Perkins also rushed for 102 yards in the Giants’ week 17 win versus the Washington Redskins. With Rashad Jennings already cut, the door is now open for Perkins to start.

Tight ends Will Tye and second year man Jerrell Adams will likely also get the nod to start and/or get more snaps should the Giants go in house to address their tight ends.

The New York Giants franchise tagging Jason Pierre-Paul has its pros and cons. On one hand, the Giants get their franchise defensive end back to help retain a lethal duo which features himself and Oliver Vernon. On the other hand, Pierre-Paul has struggled to remain on the field over the past two seasons, and his new deal eats into the Giants’ cap space quite a bit. At the end of the day though, keeping Pierre-Paul does more good than bad for the Giants. If he stays healthy, an elite defense remains largely intact, but more importantly signals a positive sign — the Giants are all in for the 2017 NFL season.

Robbie Stratakos is a New York Knicks/Giants Beat Writer for Elite Sports NY (ESNY); he also covers the NBA nationally. He previously wrote at Last Word On Pro Basketball and Empire Writes Back. In addition to writing for ESNY, Robbie is an MLB columnist at Baseball Essential. He previously wrote at HardBallScoop - part of Scout/CBS Interactive/247Sports, Last Word On Baseball and District On Deck. He is attending Mount Saint Mary College in Newburgh, New York. Follow him on twitter @RPStratakos