By Ernie Palladino
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As general manager Jerry Reese said last week, the Giants won't be making the same kind of roster changes for 2015 like the one that cost them around $116 million last year.
They just don't have the money. And all the salary juggling in the world isn't going to free up enough space under the anticipated $140 million salary cap to mount such an aggressive overhaul.
But there will be some movement. There always is, especially after a 6-10 season. What new faces arrive, well, we'll just have to find that out down the road. In the meantime, Reese and Tom Coughlin have some evaluating and decision-making to do on two of their major players in particular -- Jason Pierre-Paul and Antrel Rolle.
Pierre-Paul is an intriguing situation in that he truly had two seasons. Over the first 11 games, he looked nothing like one of the elite 4-3 defensive ends in this free agent class, compiling just 3 ½ sacks as he all but vanished from the pass rush. His future status in a Giants uniform appeared in doubt, though he did stop the run well throughout.
Skip to the last five games. Nine sacks, and continued proficiency against the run if, however, you eliminate his two boneheaded plays on Blake Bortles keepers that allowed Jacksonville its game-winning field goal. It didn't help his case that the coaches had warned him after Bortles' first jaunt that Pierre-Paul had to maintain contain at all time. Yet, two plays later, there was Bortles scurrying around the edge for 20 yards as Pierre-Paul swallowed the inside bait.
That was the last real gaffe in run defensive from JPP, however. And his pass rush came alive. During the 3-1 finish, he looked much like the monster who racked up 16 ½ sacks in 2011, before double-teams and back issues took its toll.
But those other things are exactly what make Pierre-Paul an interesting decision. If the Giants keep him, they're either going to have to commit to him long-term with money that will place him among the highest-paid DEs in the league. That's a big gamble on a long-bodied player with back trouble and a suspected pinched shoulder nerve that reduced his early-season effectiveness.
If they decide to kick the can down the road and slap a franchise tag on him, it's still going to cost them money. A lot of it. Like close to $14 million. And that's just to keep him for another year before they have to face the unrestricted market all over again next offseason.
Or, they could just let him walk away and pray that Pierre-Paul doesn't sign with an NFC East time to potentially haunt him twice a year for the next five years.
Co-owner John Mara and Reese both said they'd like him back. But perhaps those comments were simply the function of a strong finish. Either way, JPP want big bucks, and he' probably going to get them from someone. It might as well be the Giants.
But paying Pierre-Paul will make a decision on Rolle that much harder. He didn't have a great year at safety. His chatter outside the locker room has created some minor waves over his five years in the Meadowlands. And he's 32 years old.
He dropped several interceptions and missed a couple of important tackles. His play hardly stood up to the standards of a top-salaried safety, which is what he expects to become.
It probably wouldn't hurt to let him explore the open market and leave the door open for his return if he doesn't find the big money.
As Mara and Reese said, they'd like both back "at the right price."
The right price could mean vastly different things for a 26-year-old pass rusher and a 32-year-old safety.
It could be the difference between one staying and one going.
If the Giants keep JPP, there may be no price right enough to keep Rolle around.
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