When the Giants made decisions on defensive ends who were hitting free agency in recent years — Justin Tuck and Osi Umenyiora to be specific — they did so from a position of strength. Each time they had younger (i.e. cheaper) players on the roster they felt could develop and fill whatever production would be lost by moving on from the established vet.
Usually, that player was Jason Pierre-Paul. He was the up-and-comer, the player waiting in the wings, the one who made the loss of those fine players palatable.
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But now that the Giants are in decision-making mode with Pierre-Paul, well, the roster is pretty bare behind him.
“There’s no guys,” Pierre-Paul said on Wednesday, looking around the locker room. When asked who on the team could replace him, Pierre-Paul bluntly added: “Nobody. People see it. I’m just telling the truth.”
Which is just one of the reasons he could be back with the team in 2016 and beyond.
“D-ends don’t come (around) often, everybody knows that,” Pierre-Paul said. “Just like left tackles.”
Of course there are others in the league who could fit that role, and the Giants will have plenty to spend in free agency this offseason. They could go shopping elsewhere to bring in the kind of defensive playmaker that Pierre-Paul can be. That he used to be. And he knows that.
“They don’t need me, they need a pass-rusher,” he said. “I feel like that’s what I bring to the table. . . . I’m an all-around player.”
An all-around player with a pretty big handicap. He played only half the games this season due to a fireworks accident in July, and the times he has been on the field he’s been hampered by the club he’s worn to protect his mangled hand. He said he will have surgery this offseason on his middle finger, which should improve his grip and allow him to ditch the club.
“The surgery is definitely going to help me a lot,” he said. “Once I start closing I’ll be fine… My hand hasn’t stopped me from playing. It’s stopped me from doing a couple of things, but the reality is that will be fixed.”
Of bigger concern could be the fixing of the team. The Giants have missed the playoffs four straight seasons, and Pierre-Paul took his share of the blame for this one ending in disappointment.
“I feel like half of it is my fault because most of the games that we lost I feel like we could have won and if I was there we probably would have won those games,” he said. “It is what it is. You can’t sit around and wait for one person. The next man has to step up. I’m here now and I’m doing the best I can to help this team win games and hopefully next year, if I’m here, I can get in and get rolling.”
Last year he never got to test the market for his value because the Giants put a franchise tag on him, but that almost certainly will not be the case this offseason.
“I know my worth,” he said. “I’m not too worried about that. I know what I bring to the table. Everybody else does too.”
The Giants have already shown a commitment to him, signing him midseason when they could have easily put him on the non-football injury list.
“They gave me a second chance and they didn’t have to,” he said. “At the end of the day I appreciate that. They know what type of player they (would be) getting. I’m just a different type of player, man. I don’t think a lot of people could have done what I did, and that goes to show it.”
Pierre-Paul has said he wants to finish his career with the Giants, but he seemed more open to going elsewhere when he spoke on Wednesday than he ever has.
“I feel like whoever has me is going to get a great football player,” he said.
But he still spoke of the team and himself in the collective pronoun. At least for one more game.
“I think we have a lot of work to do,” he said of the offseason changes that are sure to take place. “There is a lot of work to get done and we’re going to get it right. I’m pretty sure the organization is going to get it right, and hopefully I’m here to see it.”