It took seven years of ups and down, Pro Bowls, sacks, injuries, touchdowns, tough lessons learned and even an amputation before Jason Pierre-Paul landed the long-term security he so desperately desired.
The reward for making it to 2017 as a coveted 28-year-old pass-rusher these days comes in bags. And those bags are filled with cash. Lots of it.
Pierre-Paul signed a new four-year contract on Friday worth up to $66 million, with $40 million guaranteed. The move was necessary for both the Giants and their starting defensive end. Before the deal was signed, he was under the franchise tag, a one-year contract for $16.9 million, and that never would have worked for either side.
Pierre-Paul didn’t want to play on a one-year deal … again. He had done that each of the past two seasons, albeit because of his own doing. Even after missing the final five games of this past season (including a playoff loss to the Green Bay Packers), he made this abundantly clear.
"I'm not playing on no one-year deal," Pierre-Paul said after he missed the Giants' postseason-ending playoff loss to the Packers following his sports hernia surgery. "I've proved it. I've showed it. There is not really another guy like me out here doing it with 7½ fingers still."
The franchise tag and one-year tender that comes with it would have forced this to be his reality if a long-term deal hadn’t come along. And it wouldn’t have turned out well.
Pierre-Paul would’ve been poked and prodded constantly by the media and everyone around him throughout the season about not getting a deal. Why didn't it happen? When will it happen? What is his plan moving forward?
These questions never would've stopped. Pierre-Paul wouldn’t have been happy about it either. He is entering his eighth season with the Giants, and he watched Olivier Vernon collect the contract that seemingly was earmarked for Pierre-Paul prior to the July 4 fireworks accident that seriously damaged his right hand.
Last season also marked the second time the Giants used the franchise tag on Pierre-Paul. A second franchise tag isn’t ideal. It sends the message that the organization doesn’t necessarily want the player for the long haul. Everyone else around him notices. You see how that is working for the Washington Redskins with QB Kirk Cousins at the moment. They're a mess.
The Giants, meanwhile, are trying to get things in order to put together another run. With a content Pierre-Paul opposite Vernon on a talented defense, they seem to have the pieces in place, even after Pierre-Paul became the first first-round pick under general manager Jerry Reese to sign a long-term second deal with the team.
“It means a lot to me because I started here, and obviously I want to finish here,” Pierre-Paul said in a statement released by the team after his signing. “I’ve seen a lot of guys come and go, especially in my [draft] class. I’m the only one left in my class here. It means a lot. We won a Super Bowl here, and I’m looking forward to putting a fifth trophy in the case [for the franchise].”
It would’ve been difficult to do with Pierre-Paul not completely content. He’s already a handful to handle, the kind of player who needs structure and constant prodding from coaches to remain focused. The distraction of again trying to prove himself worthy of a long-term deal (for a third time) naturally would have taken its toll. It likely wouldn't have ended well.
The Giants surely understood the risks of not signing Pierre-Paul to this new deal that further secured his financial future. That was partly why the plan all along was to reach an agreement. Negotiations have been ongoing for weeks, months even. It was almost inevitable that a deal eventually would be reached before the July 15 deadline.
It was necessary for the Giants because they needed the money. They already were getting close to exhausting the full $167 million under the salary cap and didn’t want to have to renegotiate a whole bunch of deals to get through the 2017 season. That would’ve come with consequences down the road.
Now they've freed up some cap space for this year with Pierre-Paul’s new deal. It should provide them enough flexibility (along with another move or two) to add a few more pieces for the upcoming season. Really, that always was the goal entering this offseason. Keep the defense -- Pierre-Paul included -- together as much as possible.
The key move finally was made eight days into free agency, and it was a win-win for Pierre-Paul and the Giants.