The Giants are facing one of the busiest off-seasons of any team in 2014. 22 players will be unrestricted free agents, 11 of which were regular starters last season. The team will probably spend most of its estimated 20 million dollars in cap space to resign their own players. However if the Giant choose to use the franchise tag a large chunk of that cash will have to be set aside for just one player. According to league rules, any player that receives a franchise tag is entitled to an average of the top five salaries at that player’s position or a 20-percent salary increase, whichever is greater. With the so many needs to fill and just one tag, the Giants must decide which player, if any, is most deserving of that tag.
The name that immediately comes to mind is former first rounder Hakeem Nicks. Despite an extreme down year, he has been the Giants number one threat on the outside for the past four seasons. No one questions his talent or ability, and his hands have marveled scouts ever since he entered the 2009 draft. This season Nicks was able to play in 15 of the team’s 16 games, and he was second on the team in yards (896) and receptions (56). However, he failed to get into the end zone for the first time in his career. If the Giants want to slap the tag on the Nicks it is estimated the team will have to spend a little over $11 million of this season’s cap, according to Joel Corry of CBSSports.com. Combine that with Nicks’ riddled injury past and this season’s frequent display of “alligator arms,” it doesn’t seem fiscally responsible to use the tag on him.
Justin Tuck is the next player the Giants will want to evaluate. Yes he is 31, and on probably at the tail end of his career, but he did come on late this season and was able to post a team-high 11 sacks. You also can’t cast aside his intangibles either; Tuck is a team captain, and the unquestioned leader of the defense. Shortly after the season ended the former All-Pro expressed his desire to retire as a Giant, but recently announced that he wants to test the free agent market. Franchising Tuck will cost the Giants close to an estimated $12.5 million. As much as both parties would like for the defensive end to stay in New York, it probably won’t be via the franchise tag. The price tag is much too steep to spend on an aging defensive end and Tuck will be looking for a longer commitment.
Jon Beason will also become a free agent, making him a candidate for the franchise tag. Beason transformed the Giants defense in his 11 games with the Giants this season. During that span he led the team in tackles and added energy they were clearly missing in the beginning of the year. While the Giants can franchise him they most likely will not. The Giants would like to sign him to a multi-year deal, but they will only do so at their price. Beason is 29, and has a laundry list of injuries. If the middle linebacker is looking for top dollar, he could be playing elsewhere in 2014.
If there is one player the Giants should realistically consider franchising its defensive tackle Linval Joseph. He is a must re-sign for the Giants this off season. He and the team would like to work out a long term deal but if they can’t the Giants could franchise him. Joseph will be a hot commodity if he hits the market. Joseph is a big run stopper up the middle, who can pressure the quarterback if necessary, and will command anywhere from $35-40 million dollars on the open market. Ideally the team would like to stay closer to $6 million dollars a year, over a five-to-six year range. If Joseph is willing to do that deal, the team would have more money left over to re-sign others like Tuck or Beason.
Stevie and Andre Brown are both expected to re-sign with the team (far less thorny situations) and should not necessitate the use of the franchise tag. The Giants are one of just seven teams to use franchise tag on three players or less. Since 1993, the year the franchise tag was implanted into the NFL’s Collective Bargaining Agreement, the Giants have franchised Jumbo Elliot in 1993, Brandon Jacobs in 2009 and Steve Weatherford in 2012. With so many holes to fill, it is unlikely they will do so again in 2014.