The New York Giants got some terrible news yesterday, with the announcement that stud defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul would be out three months with a back injury, which would put him out of action until just right before the season opener. There’s little chance he would be ready to play given the fact that he would be missing all of OTAs, training camp and the preseason.
The team will also likely be wary of pushing Pierre-Paul after what happened to Hakeem Nicks last season. This likely means that for the first few weeks of the season, the Giants’ main defensive ends will be some combination of Mathias Kiwanuka, Justin Tuck, Damontre Moore and Adewale Ojomo. For a team that needs a competent pass rush to compensate for a woeful secondary and a poor linebacker core, this is a disaster. It’s why the Giants need to find a way to sign free agent defensive end John Abraham.
On the surface, this seems like a panic move, overpaying for a player who is perceived as more of a “big name” than an actual contributor at this point. The problem with that thinking is the Giants, in a sense, should be panicking as their top defensive player is hurting and will likely be less than 100% the entire season. There’s also the fact that John Abraham is still an effective defensive end
While Abraham was viewed mostly as a one-dimensional pass-rusher, the fact is that he’s a very, very good pass-rusher. According to Pro Football Focus, he had a +22.7 pass rushing grade in 2012, fifth amongst all defensive ends. His snaps were somewhat limited to nickel packages, but he still managed to play almost 70% of the Falcons’ snaps. His run defense, while nothing to clamor about, was actually positive on the season, at +0.8. Abraham would at least partially replace Pierre-Paul’s production and give the team valuable depth when he returns.
One argument against such a move would be that Abraham wouldn’t be a starter and that he would become a luxury once Pierre-Paul comes back. The main problem with this argument is that Abraham would become the best defensive end on the team not named Pierre-Paul if signed. Kiwanuka, who is moving back to defensive end, struggled as a linebacker last season and it’s unclear what kind of production he’ll provide at the position as a 30-year old. Tuck is an even bigger concern as his play has dropped off a cliff the last two seasons, totaling just nine sacks and being a shadow of the player he used to be against the run.
The other argument concerns the other defensive ends on the roster besides Abraham. Signing someone like Abraham would take away chances for young guys like Ojomo, Moore and Tracy. This is something to be taken into consideration but it shouldn’t be a huge consideration.
One, the Giants are not a rebuilding team, they are a team that is built to win now and thrusting guys into roles they are not prepared for is not the best way to do that. Two, outside of Moore, it’s questionable how much upside either Ojomo or Tracy have. Ojomo was an undrafted free agent and while general manager Jerry Reese has an eye for talent, the fact is that most undrafted free agents don’t amount to anything and that it’s far more likely Ojomo will resemble Mark Herzlich than an actual productive player. Tracy was a sixth-round pick in 2010 and in his three seasons, has totaled a single sack. The expectation that a sixth round pick will be a difference maker after barely showing anything in his first three seasons is probably not realistic. As for Moore, while he seemingly has a bright NFL future, it’s unlikely he’ll be all that productive as a raw rookie.
There are other options on the free agent market that would likely cost less but Abraham is easily the best of the options left and considering how much the Giants prioritize their pass rush, letting him go would be a mistake.