EAST RUTHERFORD, New Jersey — The New York Giants placed the franchise tag on defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul after the 26-year-old rebounded from two injury-plagued seasons.
The Giants made the move Monday, guaranteeing that their first-round draft pick of 2010 will make at least $14.813 million next season unless the two sides reach an agreement on a long-term deal by July 15.
Pierre-Paul had team highs of 12 1/2 sacks and 21 quarterback hits playing on a defense ranked No. 29 overall. It was his best season since having 16½ sacks in 2011, the season the Giants won their second Super Bowl under Tom Coughlin.
Pierre-Paul also finished third on the team with 77 tackles, including 16 for losses. He was bothered by back and shoulder injuries in 2012 and '13.
The Giants also announced on Monday that center J.D. Walton was released after starting all 16 games last season. The team plans to move second-year offensive lineman Weston Richburg to center and it recently signed center Brett Jones, who has been one of the top linemen in the Canadian Football League. The move saved the Giants $3 million in salary cap space.
With the recent release of defensive end Mathias Kiwanuka, Pierre-Paul has now been with the club longer than any current defensive lineman. He has 42 career sacks, eighth in team history.
The Giants are going to have a somewhat new defense next season with former coordinator Steve Spagnuolo returning and replacing the fired Perry Fewell.
The defense gave up an average of 375.8 yards last season, including 135.1 rushing, 30th in the league. While the line could not stop the run, it was good getting to the quarterback with 47 sacks.
Pierre-Paul really came on late, getting nine of his sacks in the final five games.
Pierre-Paul is the fourth Giant designated as a franchise player, joining tackle Jumbo Elliott (1993), running back Brandon Jacobs (2009) and punter Steve Weatherford (2012). Both Jacobs and Weatherford signed long-term contracts two weeks after receiving their franchise designations.
The Giants have also used the transition tag on linebacker Carl Banks (1993), tight end Howard Cross (1994) and running back Rodney Hampton (1996).
A non-exclusive franchise player may negotiate with other teams, but if the player signs an offer sheet from another team, the original team has the right to match the terms. If it does not match the offer and loses the player it is entitled to two first-round draft choices as compensation.
A six-year veteran, Walton signed with the Giants as a free agent last March. The former Denver Broncos draft pick has started 52 regular-season and two postseason games.
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