Jason Pierre-Paul's value on open market projected to be about $15 million

(Note: Check back every day this week for a free agent file)

It is not a matter of if the New York Giants want defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul to return. It is a matter of whether they can make it happen financially.

Pierre-Paul is set to become a free agent after completing his seventh season with the team. He had 7.0 sacks in 12 games before sports hernia surgery ruined his prove-it year.

To erase doubts he could still play at a high level after losing his right index finger and parts of several others in a fireworks accident, Pierre-Paul was among the league leaders with eight batted passes and added 54 quarterback pressures, according to Pro Football Focus.

The Giants are sold.

"Do we want him back? Of course we want him back," general manager Jerry Reese said after the season. "He's a good football player."

It’s not going to be easy. Pierre-Paul deservedly wants to get paid with a long-term deal, but the Giants are already heavily invested in their defensive line and have Pierre-Paul and defensive tackle Johnathan Hankins as pending free agents. Word on the street is that they are genuinely trying to keep the defense intact, which means bringing back Pierre-Paul and Hankins.

The Giants might need to use the franchise tag on Pierre-Paul for the second time in three years to make it happen. The franchise number for a defensive end is expected to be about $17 million. That might be where this one is headed, at least as a place-holder until a long-term deal is reached.

Free agent file

Jason Pierre-Paul

Position: Defensive end

Age: 28

Experience: 7 years

Projected contract: 4 years, $59 million, $21 million guaranteed

(Note: The projected contract was derived from the average of five league sources surveyed. The panel consists of a front office executive, salary-cap experts and agents.)

Comparable contract: Olivier Vernon (Giants)

It’s not exactly apples to apples, but Vernon signed a five-year, $85 million deal with a record $52.5 million guaranteed last offseason. That was money that likely wouldn’t have been available had Pierre-Paul not been involved in a July 4th fireworks accident the previous year. Now Pierre-Paul is 28, has damaged fingers and quite a bit of wear and tear on his body. Pierre-Paul is going to aim for a similar deal (and likely more), because when he was on the field this season it could be argued he was the better player. The difference is he’s not injury-free, 25 years old and in a free-agent class with a dearth of pass-rushers. Still, Pierre-Paul is justifiably going to want to get paid. He’s waited seven years for this long-term deal and already said he’s not going to play on another one-year contract. If the Giants use the franchise tag, it’s not going to be well-received.

Market: Teams are always looking for pass-rushers. For a team that plays a 4-3 defense, Pierre-Paul might be the best available option at defensive end, although there are some quality 3-4 edge rushers this year. The Giants, Bucs, Jaguars, Cowboys and Browns are some potential suitors. The market for Pierre-Paul should be strong, which could make it difficult for the Giants to get him at a price that works for both parties if he hits the market.

What he brings: Pierre-Paul is a solid run defender and pass-rusher. He proved this past season that he can still play despite the limitations with his hand. He’s in tremendous physical shape and has a body that can make him a force in any system. He has a solid all-around game that can help just about any team. The biggest question is his durability. In addition to the hand, he’s had back, shoulder and abdominal problems throughout his career.

Synopsis: Pierre-Paul proved this past season that he’s worth a lucrative investment. Even though a good chunk of his sacks came against the Browns and Bears (two bad teams), he produced consistent pressure off the edge and re-established himself as an effective run defender. He’s not among the league’s best pass-rushers, but he’s still a force to be reckoned with each week for opposing offenses.

Chances he returns to Giants: 70 percent

The franchise tag factors heavily into this equation. If that tool weren’t available, the odds of Pierre-Paul returning would be 40 percent. But it’s hard to imagine the Giants allowing a 28-year-old pass-rusher with plenty of gas in the tank to walk without any immediate compensation in return.