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Should the Giants Use the Franchise Tag?

On Monday, the period for NFL teams to apply the franchise tag opened. Each team has until March 1 to decide whether or not they wish to apply the tag to an impending free agent, essentially locking that player up with a one-year deal.

For those unfamiliar with the franchise tag, it’s essentially a one-year tender worth the average of the top five highest-paid players at the position, or 120% of the player’s previous salary, whichever is greater. The exclusive franchise tag means the player can only sign a contract with the tagging team. The non-exclusive tag means the player can sign with another team, but the tagging team has the right to match any offer, and receives two first-round picks if it chooses not to. It is extremely rare for a franchise tagged player to sign with another team.

With nearly 30 players set to hit the open market, the Giants can opt to place the franchise tag on one of them to lock in that player for another year. Using the franchise tag is not mandatory, so the Giants may ultimately decide not to use it. But in case they do, here are a few candidates.

DE Jason Pierre-Paul

With all of the hoopla surrounding Pierre-Paul and his hand after his fireworks accident last summer, it’s easy to forget that JPP was designated as the Giants’ franchise player following the 2014 season.

Indeed, New York placed the franchise tag on Pierre-Paul last offseason, and while they worked to sign him to a long-term deal, the pass rusher seemed content to play out the one-year tender and hit the open market after the season.

After his severe hand injury, long-term talks were predictably halted, and Pierre-Paul ended up signing an adjusted one-year tender. Now, after a shortened 2015 season where he only registered one sack but showed his knack for putting pressure on the quarterback was still intact, he is a free agent once again.

Jason Pierre-Paul (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

Jason Pierre-Paul (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

The Giants have expressed interest in bringing back JPP, but he underwent more surgeries on his injured hand, and was “good not great” last year, so his value on the open market is going to be hard to predict. With the franchise tag, Pierre-Paul would be due for a one-year contract worth roughly $15 million. For that reason, the Giants probably don’t want to pay Pierre-Paul a top five salary with so much uncertainty surrounding him.

With three starters on the defensive line (Pierre-Paul, Cullen Jenkins and Robert Ayers) set to hit unrestricted free agency, it’s fair to think the Giants might want to keep part of the line intact, and tag Pierre-Paul. But I think it’s still an extreme longshot.

CB Prince Amukamara

Yet another defensive starter set to become a free agent, Amukamara is another realistic candidate for the franchise tag. The Giants’ 2011 first-round pick is half of the strong cornerback duo which also consists of Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie. When Amukamara has been on the field, he’s always been a solid NFL corner.

Unfortunately, Amukamara just can’t stay on the field. He missed five games last season with a pectoral injury, and has played in 14 or more games in one season just once in his first five years in the league.

CB Prince Amukamara (Photo: Getty Images).

CB Prince Amukamara (Photo: Getty Images).

Amukamara should and likely will be a priority free agent for the Giants to re-sign this spring. He’s been a strong cover corner during his Giants career, and with Jayron Hosley and Trumaine McBride set to join him in free agency next month, the Giants’ cornerback situation beyond DRC is murky at best.

Still, it’s hard to see the Giants committing nearly $14 million in one year to the oft-injured cornerback if they can’t agree to a multi-year deal. I have no doubt the Giants want to bring back Amukamara, but the franchise tag probably isn’t the way to go about it.

K Josh Brown

While he’s certainly not the flashiest free agent, Brown is probably the most likely candidate to be slapped with the franchise tag.

Brown had big shoes to fill when he came to New York to replace two-time Super Bowl hero Lawrence Tynes. But in his three seasons with the Giants, he has done incredibly well, converting 91.7% of his field goals, including 8-of-9 from 50+ yards. This is even more impressive when you consider he plays half of his games in the tough conditions at MetLife Stadium.

K Josh Brown (Photo: Getty Images).

K Josh Brown (Photo: Getty Images).

In 2015, Brown enjoyed a fantastic season, nailing a career-high 93.8% of his kicks. He was rewarded by being named to his first Pro Bowl.

If they decide against placing the tag on injury risks Pierre-Paul and Amukamara, the Giants designating Brown as their franchise player makes a ton of sense. He is one of the better kickers in the league, and would likely have plenty of suitors should he hit the open market, and there’s no guarantee he would return to Big Blue. Plus, the franchise tag tender for kickers is far from prohibitive, coming in at just $4.5 million. That annual value could even be a little lower when/if the Giants agree to a multi-year deal with the tagged Brown.

It’s not unprecedented for the Giants to franchise tag a special teamer, as they tagged former punter Steve Weatherford before he could hit free agency in 2012. The two sides eventually agreed to a five-year, $12.75 million deal. It wouldn’t be surprising to see Brown follow that route.

The Giants still have a couple weeks before they need to make a decision, so this will be a story worth keeping an eye on.

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