Jason Pierre-Paul and a fourth round pick are heading to Tampa Bay in exchange for a third and fourth round pick. All of the draft picks are in the 2018 draft. That isn’t much in the way of compensation for Pierre-Paul. It only saves the Giants $2.5 million in cap space this year and there aren’t exactly a lot of free agents to pursue right now. It does get Pierre-Paul’s contract off the books for upcoming seasons, but this certainly is not a win-now move for New York.
Pierre-Paul is from Deerfield Beach, Florida and played at South Florida. He is returning home. But the Buccaneers didn’t trade for Pierre-Paul for such nostalgic reasons. Pierre-Paul entered the NFL a first-round pick with some rather freaky traits. Since his fireworks accident which severely injured his hand, Pierre-Paul, 29, has probably leveled out as a high quality, but not exceptional defensive end and isn’t as explosive as he once was. But the Giants have also played him an extremely high number of snaps. He is very solid vs. the run as well as still providing quite a bit a pass-rusher.
James Bettcher takes over as the Giants offensive coordinator. This organization historically values defensive linemen as much as any franchise in the NFL. Dave Gettleman comes over from Carolina, a team that has done little blitzing over the past few seasons (with the exception of 2017) and got pressure from their front four. On the other hand, Bettcher’s history is utilizing a blitzing attacking style with very active linebackers and a wide variety of back seven athletes of varied skill sets.
Even with Bettcher’s approach (and the Giants actually used a resource on a linebacker this offseason!), the obvious correlation here is that the next shoe to drop for New York will be the selection of Bradley Chubb with the second overall pick in the draft. Again, Gettleman’s history and the way the Giants have been built over the years and their method for scouting players implies that they would value Chubb a great deal.
If we believe that New York does truly believe that Eli Manning has several quality years left and they are not planning on using the second overall pick on a quarterback, we must now believe that Chubb is the leader in the clubhouse to be selected after Cleveland makes their choice. That being said, Saquon Barkley and Quenton Nelson are probably better pure prospects than Chubb and the Giants absolutely could use upgrades at running back and at guard. But the long time conversation holds true here that pass-rushers (especially in this year’s free agent and draft market) are far more valuable than running backs and guards.
And that brings us to the Buccaneers. Not only did Tampa Bay record the fewest sacks in the NFL last year, but their pass defense overall was just abysmal. Losing the promising Noah Spence to injury hurt their cause without question and the Bucs should be anxiously awaiting his return.
Gerald McCoy remains a big time difference maker as Tampa Bay’s 3 Technique, but this defense didn’t get much of consequence from the rest of the Buccaneers defensive front. Now, not only has Pierre Paul been added to the equation, but Tampa Bay signed Mitch Unrein and Beau Allen to play alongside McCoy on the interior as well as snatching up Vinny Curry immediately after he was released by the Eagles.
Allen and especially Unrein are coming off very good seasons and are well-rounded interior players. Spence has upside as an edge bender and Curry is a force lined up all over the line of scrimmage. Now you add Pierre-Paul, who can play fewer snaps and stay fresher presumably than what was asked of him in New York, into the equation and Tampa Bay goes from having a very poor defensive front in 2017 to certainly an above average unit, if not better. There is more gap-alignment versatility here now as well and the foursome of McCoy, Curry, Pierre- Paul and Spence on throwing downs appears very formidable.
Taking it one step further for the Bucs, they weren’t going to get value at defensive end with the seventh pick in the draft. As alluded to, this is a very shallow class at the top of the draft and Chubb will never last until the seventh selection. However, Tampa Bay should get their pick of defensive backs. Minkah Fitzpatrick, Derwin James and Denzel Ward all could be in play at the seventh spot. And who knows, maybe a quarterback like Baker Mayfield is still on the board and the Bucs trade down a few spots while still landing a premium defensive back.
The pass-rush was awful last year for Tampa Bay, but their secondary wasn’t much better. In fact, no defense in the NFL allowed more yardage to opposing wide receivers. They allowed an embarrassing number of big plays. Brent Grimes was brought back, which was smart. But more has to be done to help this pass defense on the back end. Picking up Pierre-Paul makes that extremely possible.