Before the Giants head to this week’s NFL Combine in Indianapolis, where they figure to talk with representatives for Jason Pierre-Paul about a long-term contract, they bought themselves some time and a possible backup plan by using the franchise tag on the 28-year-old defensive end.
The team has notified Pierre-Paul of its intention to use the non-exclusive tag, a source confirmed Monday to Newsday. That will link Pierre-Paul to the Giants for the 2017 season — temporarily, at least — at an annual salary of approximately $17 million, or 10.14 percent of the expected salary cap.
Whether Pierre-Paul ever signs for that is the big question. He said at the end of this past season that he had no intention of playing on another one-year deal. The Giants used the franchise tag on him in 2015, and he signed a one-year, $10-million deal for 2016.
Traditionally, the Giants have used the tag as more of a protection for pending free agents than an actual contract offer. Before Pierre-Paul two years ago, they used it on running back Brandon Jacobs and punter Steve Weatherford. Both signed long-term deals well before the July deadline to sign the one-year tag contract.
A long-term deal typically is more cap-friendly than the franchise tag. The $17 million currently slated for Pierre-Paul eats up more than half of the $31.5 million in cap space the Giants were expected to have available to them for free agency.
Had the Giants not used the tag on Pierre-Paul before Wednesday’s deadline, he would have become an unrestricted free agent March 9. Because they used the non-exclusive tag, Pierre-Paul can negotiate with other teams. If another team reaches an agreement with him, the Giants have five days to match the offer or allow him to walk. In that case, they would receive two first-round picks from the other team.
Pierre-Paul had 53 combined tackles, seven sacks and three forced fumbles in 12 games in 2016, his first full season back from the hand injury he suffered in July 2015. He missed the final four games of the regular season and the playoff game with a core muscle injury that required surgery.
Several other teams used similar tactics with their would-be free agents. The Cardinals used it on linebacker Chandler Jones, the Panthers on defensive end Kawaan Short and the Steelers on running back Le’Veon Bell.
Antonio Brown extended. The Steelers signed Antonio Brown to a four-year extension that reportedly will pay an additional $68 million on top of the $4.71 million he already was due to earn in 2017, making him the NFL’s highest-paid receiver. Brown, 28, had 106 catches for 1,284 yards and 12 touchdowns.