Starting today and through March 1, NFL teams will be able to designate the franchise or transition tags to that one unrestricted free agent that they have to have on the roster in 2016.
Before going into those Giants who could be in line for the tag, let’s first have a refresher on the conditions of each tag.
We’ll start with the franchise tag, of which there are two categories, exclusive and non-exclusive.
According to Joel Corry of CBSSports.com, a player given the exclusive tag will receive a one-year offer from his current team that is either 120 percent greater than his prior year’s salary or of the average of the top five salaries at his position once the 2016 restricted free agent period ends on April 22. Exclusive franchise players cannot negotiate with other teams.
Non-exclusive franchise players are free to negotiate with other teams; however, if they sign elsewhere, the former club is entitled to two first-round draft picks from the new team as compensation.
A non-exclusive franchise player receives a one-year offer that is either 120 percent more than his 2015 salary or is the average of the top-five highest paid players at his position, whichever is greater.
A player designated with the transition tag will receive a one-year offer that consists of either a 120 percent raise over his 2015 salary or the average of the top 10 highest paid players at his position at the conclusion of the 2016 restricted free agency signing period (April 22), whichever is higher.
Last year, the Giants used the non-exclusive franchise tender on defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul. It’s not known if the team plans to apply the none-exclusive franchise tag on Pierre-Paul a second time (the tag may be applied no more than twice to the same player).
Also under the CBA rules, teams may tag a player a maximum of two years in a row.
So who among the Giants 20 unrestricted free agents have any kind of chance of being tagged?
Here are three, along with the estimated franchise tag amounts for each position as provided by Corry, who based his numbers on a $154 million salary cap.
DE Jason Pierre-Paul
Estimated Franchise Tag: $15.494 million
If the Giants, who are lacking big-time for pass rushers, decide that everything is going to be all right with Jason Pierre-Paul’s right hand moving forward, they have the option of franchising him one last time at a 4.6 percent increase over last year’s franchise tag of $14.813 million for defensive ends.
Pierre-Paul of course didn’t collect the full $14.813 million thanks to an unfortunate turn of events that resulted in part of his right hand being blown off in a fireworks accident.
Would the Giants tie up approximately 10 percent of their 2016 salary cap on Pierre-Paul? I’m not convinced it would be a wise investment.
In a column written for Bleacher Report, I noted that the evidence against franchising Pierre-Paul is stronger than it is biting the bullet.
For instance, we all saw how Pierre-Paul struggled with his grip, which admittedly was hampered by a club he wore over his right hand.
Regardless, is there any guarantee that the surgery that Pierre-Paul had last month definitely fixed the problem, or will it be a wait-and-see proposition for the Giants?
The biggest sticking point against franchising Pierre-Paul is his body of work. Yes, he had that one great season in 2011, which was followed up by two years of injury-plagued performances.
However, in 2014, Pierre-Paul was presumably healthy and had a chance to really establish himself as a dominating performer.
What happened? Nine of his 12.5 sacks that season came in the last five games of the season against teams whose offensive lines were ranked by Football Outsiders as being at or near the bottom of the NFL.
CB Prince Amukamara
Estimated Franchise Tag: $15.494 million
A second, albeit remote candidate for the franchise tag is cornerback Prince Amukamara.
Last year, the Giants’ 2011 first-round draft pick earned $6.898 million in the option year of his rookie deal. If the Giants were to apply the non-exclusive franchise tag to him, it would cost them $13.838 million.
Don’t expect that to happen, not when Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie not only had the better season of the two, according to the advanced analytics kept by Pro Football Focus, he also didn’t miss a large chunk of the season, as Amukamara did when he suffered a partially torn pectoral muscle that cost him five games.
Amukamara is a solid cornerback, but between his injury history and his inconsistency—upon his return to the lineup, he allowed 18 of 27 pass targets to be complete for 228 yards, two touchdowns, zero interceptions and only one pass defensed—he’s probably not going to get a rich payday from the Giants.
K Josh Brown
Estimated Franchise Tag: $4.126 million
Tagging kicker Josh Brown isn’t so far out to make any sense—as Pro Football Talk noted, the Seahawks tagged Brown in 2007 and he can be tagged once more before he’d be eligible for the quarterback rate if he were to be tagged for a third time.
The thing to remember about the franchise tag is that it can be used to buy time during negotiations with a player.
You’ll remember the Giants have twice used this tactic, in 2009 with running back Brandon Jacobs, who ended up signing a long-term deal and had the tag removed from his name, and then again in 2012 when the Giants bought themselves time with punter Steve Weatherford, whom they also signed to a new long-term deal.
Brown, remember, is coming off his best season of his career, a year in which he converted 93.8 percent of his field goal attempts, setting a new franchise record for consecutive field goals made in the process, and making it to his first Pro Bowl.
At the end of last season, the 36-year-old Brown told me for Inside Football that he was interested in kicking for three more seasons before hanging up his cleats.
Considering the year he had, it wouldn’t’ be a stretch if Brown wanted to be among the top-paid kickers in the league.
Per Over the Cap, those top-paid kickers include New England’s Stephen Gostkowski ($4.3 million per year); Oakland’s Sebastian Janikowski ($3.775 million per year) and Chicago’s Robbie Gould ($3.75 million per year).
Thus devoting $4.126 million to Brown isn’t exactly a bank-breaker—it represents just 2.6 percent of a $154 million cap and ensures that the Giants ship doesn’t spring another leak at a critical position.
If Brown’s performance should slip, the Giants can make a clean break if he signs the tag and doesn’t reach a multi-year deal.