INDIANAPOLIS — John Mara is well aware of Jason Pierre-Paul’s very forceful and very public declaration that he wouldn’t play the 2017 season on a one-year deal as the team’s franchise player. But the Giants’ president and co-owner considers Pierre-Paul too important not to apply the franchise designation anyway, lest he risk losing the defensive end as an unrestricted free agent.
“I heard him say that, yes, and we’re trying to get a (long-term) deal done,” Mara said Wednesday in his first comments since the Giants announced Pierre-Paul would be given the franchise tag. “We want to get him signed long-term, but we had to do that to protect ourselves. Hopefully, we’ll be able to reach an agreement, but I can’t say it’s imminent.”
If Pierre-Paul doesn’t sign his tender, the Giants have until July 15 to sign him to a long-term contract. If they don’t reach agreement by then, he can play on a one-year deal worth $16.934 million, but only if he signs the tender. Mara isn’t going to break the bank, however.
“It’s a high number, but that doesn’t mean it has to be the average going forward,” Mara said of the high franchise number. “It ain’t gonna be that going forward.”
Mara hopes to work out a longer-term agreement, but he’s at least content knowing that Pierre-Paul almost certainly will be a Giant for at least this season.
“He’s an important part of our team,” Mara said. “He played at a high level last year. He gave us a huge boost. Having him on one side and (Olivier) Vernon on the other gives us a nice pair of bookend pass rushers, so yeah, we’d like to have him back. Plus, he’s a positive influence. He’s a good young man, very popular (in the locker room). He’s the type of guy you want on your team.”
That Pierre-Paul could make it back from a devastating hand injury from a fireworks accident on July 4, 2015, is a surprise to Mara. And to just about everyone with the possible exception of Pierre-Paul, who said several times that he had no doubt he’d be back and playing well.
“I wouldn’t say stunned, because he’s such a rare athlete,” Mara said. “But yeah, it is a bit of a surprise for him to be playing at that level with that type of injury.”
Pierre-Paul lost most of two fingers and part of a third in the accident, and he plays with a protective glove. He played the second half of the 2015 season with a heavily taped club that covered his injured hand. After this past season, when the Giants made the playoffs for the first time since 2011, Pierre-Paul said he wouldn’t sign a one-year deal.
“There’s not really a guy like me out here doing it with 7½ fingers,” he quipped.
The Giants are certainly aware of his value, and hope he’s back in 2017 . . . and beyond.
“It’s great to have JPP around,” coach Ben McAdoo said Wednesday at the Combine. “We think highly of him. That’s the business part of the equation, and I try to stay out of that as much as I can. But Jason is a great part of the team, someone who made some progress last year. It’ll be great to have him back.”
Pierre-Paul is clearly the Giants’ biggest offseason priority. A year after going on a free-agent spending spree to land Vernon, Janoris Jenkins and Damon Harrison, re-signing Pierre-Paul is priority No. 1.
“We’re obviously not going to be as aggressive as we were,” Mara said. “We just don’t have the salary-cap room, and you can’t do that every year. Putting the franchise tag on Jason takes a lot of our room away, but there’s still enough room for us to do some things if we want.”
Such as getting a veteran running back and possibly beefing up the offensive line, but Mara said the team will be judicious.
“We struggled on offense last year, but when you go into free agency, there has to be the right guys,” he said. “I’m not sure the offensive line is the strongest group this year, so I don’t know.”
The main objective, though, remains clear. JPP is their man.