Giants tag Jason Pierre-Paul

The New York Giants on Monday elected to use the non-exclusive franchise player designation on defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul.

The move, which was expected, keeps Pierre-Paul from becoming a free agent when the market opens March 10 and allows the Giants and Pierre-Paul to continue their so-far-fruitless discussions on a long-term contract.

By receiving the non-exclusive tag, Pierre-Paul will be free to sign an offer sheet with another team but the Giants would receive two first-round picks from that team if they choose not to match.

A source close to the negotiations said the two sides would continue to talk about a long-term deal but that the Giants would be OK with letting Pierre-Paul play out the 2015 season on the $14.813 million franchise number and be eligible for free agency again next year. Per NFL rules, the sides have until July 15 to negotiate a long-term deal. After that time, Pierre-Paul is locked into a one-year contract for 2015.

Pierre-Paul, who just turned 26 on Jan. 1, had 12.5 sacks for the Giants in 2014, his first fully healthy season since his breakout campaign in 2011. He said several times during the season that he hoped to be back with the Giants, but he also was clearly looking forward to free agency and seeing whether he could land a contract in line with those of the league's top pass-rushers.

The Giants were still somewhat leery of the injury issues he had in 2012 and 2013, and they spoke to Pierre-Paul several times during the season about ways to maintain more consistent production as a pass-rusher. He finished the year very strong, with nine sacks in the Giants' final five games. But to this point, the team and Pierre-Paul have not seen eye-to-eye on his contract value, so the Giants made their move to keep him off the open market.

Until he actually signs the franchise tender, Pierre-Paul is not officially considered under contract with the Giants, which means he technically wouldn't have to report to any mandatory offseason workouts and his $14.813 million wouldn't officially count against the Giants' salary cap. As of Monday morning, the Giants had $25,608,930 in salary-cap room. That number would instantly drop to $10,795,930 as soon as Pierre-Paul signed the tender.

The Giants cleared some cap room Monday by releasing center J.D. Walton. They also might look to rework the contracts of or release linebackers Jameel McClain and Jon Beason, and they could clear a lot more cap room if they were to extend quarterback Eli Manning's contract beyond 2015 and lower his $19.75 million cap number.