Jason Pierre-Paul is perhaps the biggest X-factor of this free agency class. He's the player who inspired the most heated debate between Chris Wesseling and I while coming up with our Top 99 available players list. I see a player who still has potential to be among the 10 best at his position in football. Wess sees a guy who can't tackle.
From my vantage point, Pierre-Paul has a high floor and a high ceiling as a free agent. Just go back to watch his film from the second half of last season. Without any training camp work, he was highly disruptive as a pass rusher with 34 hurries and six quarterback hits in limited action, according to Pro Football Focus. It's fair to criticize Pierre-Paul for failing to finish plays, but I don't assume that he's a finished product. He was just learning for the first time how to play football with a club on his hand. He underwent surgery in the offseason in hopes of wearing a glove in the future, which should help his tackling immensely. While the equipment changes, Pierre-Paul's understanding of how to play around his handicap could as well.
In a worst-case scenario, Pierre-Paul looks like an above average starter with a ton of experience despite being only 27 years old. Pro Football Focus rankings aren't the final answer on a player, but they had him ranked as the No. 9 4-3 defensive end after he returned to the field in Week 9.
It will be fascinating to see what kind of interest Pierre-Paul inspires. The Giants reportedly wanted to sign him to a short-term "prove it" deal, and Pierre-Paul feels comfortable in New Jersey. If he was a free agent a year ago, he might have inspired a deal worth over $15 million per year. Now he will come at a discount, and he's a good bet to be a great value.
So where could he land? Let's break down five potential landing spots.
New York Giants: Let's be clear that this is the most likely outcome. There are few teams in the NFL more desperate for defensive talent than Big Blue, so don't discount a return to the Giants. Pierre-Paul reportedly impressed the Giants with his attitude and performance last season and there is optimism that his latest surgery will make it easier for him to play despite his missing fingers. There is also some belief that Pierre-Paul wants to stay put, appreciative of how the Giants handled his situation last year. He could take a one-year deal and try to strike it rich as a free agent again next season.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: The Bucs' defensive end spot has long been a black hole in Tampa, with the team struggling just to find a single starter who is league average. Their best player at the position since Michael Bennett left in 2012 has been ... Jacques Smith? The Bucs have a ton of salary-cap room and Pierre-Paul played his college ball in Tampa. They are the type of team that should take a chance on him.
Dallas Cowboys: The Cowboys are suddenly thin at defensive end with Greg Hardy and Jeremy Mincey headed for free agency. Randy Gregory is suspended the first four games of the season and Demarcus Lawrence is coming off back surgery. If Pierre-Paul is going to take a short-term deal to rebuild his value, he couldn't pick a better place to get attention. Jerry Jones is familiar with JPP's big play ability, including one famous block.
Jacksonville Jaguars: With more than $80 million in cap room and a win-now season coming up, the Jaguars are logical suitors for nearly any premium defensive talent. Gus Bradley and general manager David Caldwell have been searching for one-on-one pass rushers since they arrived in town with little success. The team already has Dante Fowler and Jared Odrick, but they are very different players than Pierre-Paul. The group's versaility would give Bradley a lot of options.