It's been eight days since we first learned of the fireworks accident that severely damaged the right hand of New York Giants defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul. It's been five days since Pierre-Paul's right index finger was amputated as a result. Pierre-Paul still stands at the beginning of a lengthy recovery period from the amputation, the thumb fractures and all of the other physical and emotional damage resulting from the incident.
The Giants are, to this point, giving him space. Not entirely by choice, of course, as team officials who went to see Pierre-Paul in the hospital last week were turned away. But this close to the trauma itself, the Giants are saying all the right things about their concern being for Pierre-Paul's well-being and their frustration being about their inability to offer assistance and resources. It's the right thing to do, and the right place for the team to be with all of this at this point.
Everyone seems to agree, however, that Pierre-Paul will be able to return to the playing field at some point this year. Which is why, at some appropriate time down the road, the Giants and Pierre-Paul are going to have to have a conversation about his 2015 compensation and how it's to be delivered.
Pierre-Paul was designated the Giants' franchise player, which this year for players at his position means a one-year, fully guaranteed deal for $14.813 million. However, the Giants could opt not to pay him for games missed if they placed him on the non-football injury list. They'd have to do so at the start of training camp, and if he were still on the list at the start of the season, he'd have to miss at least the first six games. The Giants could opt not to pay him for any or all of those games.
The rub is that Pierre-Paul has not yet signed the franchise tender, which means he's not technically under contract with the Giants, so they can't place him on the NFI list. Pierre-Paul's current plan is to not sign the tender until he's sure he can pass the team's physical, and obviously if he passed the physical they could not put him on NFI. Pierre-Paul could wait until, for example, Week 1 of the regular season to sign the tender and then miss just a game or two, and still get the prorated portion of that $14.813 million for however many games he plays.
That's not an ideal situation, though, because the team wants Pierre-Paul in camp and learning the new defense that new coordinator Steve Spagnuolo is installing. Pierre-Paul opted out of all of the Giants' organized team activities and minicamp practices and still has not practiced in Spagnuolo's defense. Even if he hadn't injured himself with fireworks, he'd have been behind when training camp began July 30. So any time he can spend in camp, even taking those "mental reps" coaches and players talk about, would be of value.
So the most likely outcome here is that the Giants and Pierre-Paul negotiate to a lower franchise figure, which is allowed under the collective bargaining agreement, and he signs it in exchange for a written promise from the team to pay him the entire amount. Under that scenario, the Giants could theoretically have Pierre-Paul in camp and help administer his rehab and Pierre-Paul would not have to worry about rushing back to the field in order to get paid. A lower 2015 salary than the current $14.813 million would acknowledge the impact of the injuries and the likelihood that Pierre-Paul will (a) return as a somewhat diminished player and/or (b) not be able to play the full season. But guaranteeing it all, rather than tying his pay to the timing of his 2015 season debut, could help persuade Pierre-Paul to let the team in to an extent he so far has resisted.
I don't know what the right number ends up being, and it's possible Pierre-Paul would resist any effort to lower the 2015 number as it could set back his starting point in next year's potential contract negotiation. But if he's willing to acknowledge the significant extent to which circumstances have altered his realistic hopes for scoring a huge long-term deal next year, then he could be receptive to a settlement.
Again, it's too early for Pierre-Paul and the Giants to be having these conversations. But for those of you wondering what has to happen before Pierre-Paul can get on the field in 2015, these kinds of financial discussions are undoubtedly a part of it -- along with all of the healing he still has to do.