INDIANAPOLIS -- The New York Giants have interest in re-signing both of their free-agent pass-rushers, Jason Pierre-Paul and Robert Ayers, according to multiple sources close to the situation. The team is expected to meet with the representatives for both players this week at the NFL combine in the hopes of making progress on deals to keep last year's starting defensive ends for 2016 and beyond.
Even if the Giants succeed in keeping both players, they would still be in the market for additional pass-rush help and could use the No. 10 overall pick in April's draft on a pass-rusher. The Giants finished 30th in the NFL with 23 sacks in 2015. Only Buffalo and Atlanta had fewer.
The issue with the incumbents, of course, is price. Ayers is something of a buzzy free agent, with several teams thought to be interested in him following a season in which he recorded 9.5 of those 23 sacks himself. And Pierre-Paul, as everyone knows, is a unique case because of the July 4 fireworks accident that cost him his right index finger and forced him to play with a heavy club wrap on his right hand following his midseason return to the field. Pierre-Paul's market value is something of a mystery, but if a team is prepared to pay him a top starting defensive end's salary, the Giants likely will look elsewhere.
Giants coach Ben McAdoo said Wednesday that the team didn't yet know whether the surgery Pierre-Paul had just after the season would allow him to play without the club, but McAdoo offered a strong endorsement of Pierre-Paul's ability to contribute in spite of the damage to his hand.
"It was obvious when Jason came back last year how disruptive he was," McAdoo said. "When you look at him, his ability to get off the ball and get after the quarterback is easy to see. That's something that comes naturally to him, and I don't see that changing anytime soon."
If the Giants can't re-sign either or both of their 2015 starters, they would be in the market for at least one free-agent defensive end, with possibilities ranging from Miami's Olivier Vernon to Buffalo's Mario Williams and all over the map. They could make a play for linebacker Bruce Irvin, who's not expected to return to Seattle and would like to get a contract and a role that reflects his underutilized abilities as a pass-rusher.
Bottom line is the Giants need pass-rush help, whether or not they bring back Pierre-Paul and Ayers. But it seems as though they're interested in adding to that combo as opposed to replacing it.