By Matthew Ajaj Correspondent
With the 15th overall pick of the 2010 NFL Draft, the New York Giants selected Jason Pierre-Paul out of the University of South Florida. The backlash was immediate. This was a Giants team that already boasted three proven, high-quality defensive ends in Justin Tuck, Osi Umenyiora and Mathias Kiwanuka. Jason Pierre-Paul (more commonly known as “JPP”), on the other hand, had but one year of Division I college football experience on his resume. What set Pierre-Paul apart was his freak physical talent, as demonstrated in a 2009 video uploaded to YouTube featuring the massive defensive end as he gracefully executed 13 backflips, one after the other. Giants fans did not know it yet, but General Manager Jerry Reese had found a gem in JPP.
After a quiet rookie campaign, JPP stepped into his sophomore season with a great opportunity — starters Tuck and Umenyiora were nicked up for most of the 2011 season, often missing games or playing hurt. The 22-year-old Pierre-Paul more than made up for the lost production — he completely transformed the New York defense. In the regular season, JPP posted a monster stat line of 72 tackles and 16.5 sacks. Pierre-Paul stupefied opposing offenses with his raw ability and strength, often singlehandedly breaking up running plays and taking down quarterbacks before they could even look downfield. His most memorable highlight occurred in Week 14 when he blocked a would-be game-tying field goal at the last second against the division rival Dallas Cowboys to seal a crucial win. JPP was awarded a first-team All-Pro selection and, more importantly, led a hot defense at the end of the year in the New York Giants miracle playoff run to win Super Bowl XLVI. Jason Pierre-Paul was on top of the NFL world as one of the league’s best defensive players after just his second season. His best seemed yet to come.
However, it was not to be. In the years that followed, Jason Pierre-Paul would no longer resemble the superhuman juggernaut he was in 2011. His play was noticeably less impactful, and his numbers were especially underwhelming. JPP would frustrate fans with complaints of nagging injuries, particularly in his back and shoulder, which he claimed to be affecting his play. Nonetheless, in 2014 (a contract year) he played all 16 games and posted his best numbers since 2011 with 12.5 sacks and 53 tackles. The 2015 offseason rolled along, and with JPP’s contract up, the Giants offered him a long-term deal worth $60 million — he was not satisfied. JPP instead intended on receiving the franchise tag to earn a cool $14.8 million for 2015. Unfortunately for Pierre-Paul, his quest for more cash would come back to bite him.
On Saturday, July 4, Jason Pierre-Paul sustained a hand injury from a fireworks accident at his home. He was transported to a hospital and had his right index finger amputated days later. Pierre-Paul reportedly refused to see the Giants medical personnel that had come down to Florida to examine him, and since then he has established very little contact with the Giants organization. Understandably aggravated with JPP’s handling of the ordeal, the Giants later pulled their $60 million offer. The organization has tried to remain sentimental with Pierre-Paul’s situation, but frustrations are beginning to boil over. The Giants are now left with a tough decision: let JPP sign the $14.8 franchise tender or let him go. These appear to be the two most likely scenarios.
Letting Pierre-Paul stay is definitely the more difficult decision. JPP is no longer an elite defensive player, his play has been inconsistent, his constant appearances on the injury report have grown tiresome and he still does not seem to possess the qualities of a true leader. Frankly, he is not worth $14.8 million. It is important to note that Pierre-Paul is solely at fault for his current situation due to his own carelessness, and he has only made things worse by largely rebuffing the Giants organization. Given these facts, the Giants would owe Pierre-Paul nothing but a cordial thank you for his years of service. Leaving JPP off the 2015 roster would also free up $14.8 million in cap space for next year, which the team could use much more efficiently by bolstering their defense and resigning franchise quarterback Eli Manning. Ultimately, letting Pierre-Paul go would be the right decision for the New York Giants organization.
Jason Pierre-Paul faces an arduous road ahead. He must find a way to adapt to his missing appendage and become a productive NFL player once again. JPP is an amiable albeit immature figure that people want to root for; he is still a young, talented player that will undoubtedly get another chance. It might even be in his best interest to join another team mid-season or simply wait until next year to fully recuperate and adjust. Big Blue will always appreciate what Jason Pierre-Paul brought to the organization, but in all likelihood it appears that JPP has made his last sack in a New York Giants uniform.