Twelve months after signing him to a contract with a max length of four years and a max value of $62 million, the Giants are shipping defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul to the Buccaneers. The Schefter Machine has the terms:
There’s some Wow Factor to this—JPP has been a foundational piece of the Giants’ defense since he was drafted in the 2010 first round. But new general manager Dave Gettleman has been busy fumigating the place since last season’s 3-13 fart bomb. This move is about draft positioning, future salary-cap considerations, and the new scheme being installed by defensive coordinator James Bettcher. Let’s break it down.
The first thing this move does is add to the Giants’ hearty stock of draft capital, a significant potential building block for a franchise that now has zero players remaining from its 2008-13 draft classes:
The next thing this trade does is possibly affect the Giants’ decision with that No. 2 overall pick. It could position them to draft North Carolina State defensive end Bradley Chubb as a JPP replacement. Chubb is drawing rave reviews, with a pair of ESPNers going on record this morning to say he’s better than Myles Garrett, whom the Browns chose with last year’s No. 1 pick. Selecting Chubb would bring up questions about both the cap and the Giants’ scheme, which I’ll address in a bit. But it’s also by no means certain the Giants will take Chubb. They could go after a quarterback, or Penn State running back Saquon Barkley, or they could trade down to a QB-thirsty team like the Cardinals, Dolphins, Bills, or even the Jets, who already made the jump from No. 6 to No. 3 but still have a 2019 first-round pick in their holster, in case they maybe want to move into the top two.
Trading JPP means the Giants will have a $15 million dead-money hit against their salary cap in 2018. That’s the highest single-player total in the league, according to overthecap.com, and it’s higher than the dead-money commitments of 27 other teams. So why do it?
The maneuver frees up $2.5 million in cap space for 2018, which is small but not insignificant for a Giants team that entered the day with just $3.4 million in cap room, per NFLPA records. More important, though, are the future cap obligations. JPP was due to count for $19.5 million against the cap in 2019 and $17.5 million in 2020. That’s all been wiped clean because of this trade, and here’s why that matters:
The trade works for the Giants from a cash allocation standpoint, too. JPP was due $11.25 million in fully guaranteed base pay in 2018, a stipulation that had vested as of last Sunday. Because of the “fully funded rule,” which requires any fully guaranteed money be placed into escrow, the Giants had already set aside that cash. Now, because of the trade, they can take that $11.25 million they would have had to pay during the regular season and apply it elsewhere. The addition of the No. 69 pick and the swap of fourth-round picks will probably cost them around $1.25 million in new signing bonuses after the draft, which means the Giants have roughly $10 million to spend from an escrow account they’ve already paid into.*
The Giants don’t have to pay JPP another dime, either. That $15 million is the leftover proration from the $20 million signing bonus he received last year after inking his deal. The trade simply accelerates the remainder of that proration to this year’s cap.
This is where the possibility of Chubb factors into the cap calculation. The Giants still have Olivier Vernon, their other high-priced defensive end, on the books at $17 million, $19.5 million, and $19.5 million against the cap the next three seasons. But if they were to draft Chubb, the Giants would have a replacement for JPP who’s seven years younger with four (and possibly five) years of cost certainty, at a total value of approximately $31.3 million across the next four seasons. JPP collected $22.5 million from the Giants in the past year, but this a prime illustration of how the rookie-wage scale can be used to make veteran players expendable.
New head coach Pat Shurmur brought on Bettcher, the former Cardinals defensive coordinator, to run his defense. The Giants have long used a 4-3 front, but Bettcher is kinda-sorta switching to a 3-4, though a more accurate description of Bettcher’s plans might be the one former Cardinals head coach Bruce Arians gave the Giants’ website last month:
“He can switch. Even in the base front, our 3-4 becomes a 4-3 a lot of times easily, and that’s the hard thing. They have so many multiple fronts that he can play and utilize that personnel they have up there.”
Bettcher not too long ago ran a defense in Arizona that sometimes included seven defensive backs. The possibility of that variation is the point. The Giants had JPP on the field for 91.7 percent of the snaps last year, with Vernon out there 63.3 percent of the time despite an ankle injury that kept him out of four games and limited him in two others. Both were likely not going to be every-down players under Bettcher.
Here again is where Chubb could fit in even though he played in a 4-3 in college. Chubb can rush the passer from both sides, but he’s also a strong run-stopper capable of being moved inside, according to Pro Football Focus’s 2018 Draft Guide. He would seem to be just what the Giants might want as their newer, younger JPP. Unless they decide to do something else with the pick. There’s lots of time to chew over the possibilities. Draft day is still five weeks away.
* This post was updated to add a paragraph about the Giants’ cash allocation and escrow.