Last March, when the Tampa Bay Buccaneers traded for defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul, they also traded for his $12.5M price tag. With him, came a fourth-round pick in the 2018 NFL Draft which Jason Licht would later send to the Minnesota Vikings in a package to move up and draft guard, Alex Cappa.
Cappa’s worth and value is still undetermined, but something we can try and determine is whether or not the Bucs paid too much for the 30-year old defensive end.
2018 CAP EXPENSE: $12.5m
CAP HIT RANKING
Some people were wondering if Tampa Bay general manager Jason Licht would make a move before the NFL Draft by the time this trade happened.
A few big name players had moved teams, and one year after the team brought in DeSean Jackson to stretch the field, they had yet to make a splash in the off-season.
We would learn later it wasn’t due to Licht not being involved in talking with other teams, it was simply a matter of other teams asking for more than the GM was willing to give up.
Once this deal was made, it was met with varying opinions. While many were happy to see a veteran with accolades like being named to an All-Pro team along with two Pro Bowls, some worried if the Bucs had given up too much.
A third-round pick seemed high for some. Others were ok with the cost given his potential to improve a struggling defensive line and the fact the Bucs also got a fourth-round pick in return.
In the end, the question we have to answer now is, was it a good deal or a bad deal?
JPP played in all sixteen games during his first season as a member of the Buccaneers and - let’s get right to it - became the first player in this franchise to get double-digit sacks since Simeon Rice did it in 2005.
He hit the ten-sack team milestone on November 25th during Tampa Bay’s home game against the San Francisco 49ers. He finished the season with 12.5 sacks. One and a half sacks fewer than Rice finished with in 2005.
In addition to breaking the sack-curse, he also led the defense in tackles for losses with *16. So if you’re counting, that’s 28.5 times the opposing offense was stopped in their own backfield because of Mr. Pierre-Paul.
Not only did JPP lead the team in sacks he led the team in stopping plays behind the line of scrimmage, period. He also knocked opposing quarterbacks to the ground twenty times which didn’t come as sacks, but as psychological reminders to them that he was around.
Towards the end of the year, it appeared opposing offenses did a better job of game-planning for him, and he finished with four and one half sacks in the final eight games, while registering eight in the first half of the year.
Perhaps it was his lack of longevity in the locker room which led to his not being named a captain this season. Whatever the reason, by the end, he was clearly a leader on the field and in the locker room.
*According to Pro Football Reference
JPP obviously made an impact in 2018, and those who doubted the deal are likely ok with - if not fully supporting - it by now.
How did the ninth-most expensive defensive end rank among positional peers around the league?
In sacks, he finished seventh among defensive ends, half a sack behind Arizona’s Chandler Jones and half a sack ahead of New Orleans’ Cameron Jordan. When looping in stand-up outside linebackers, he came in twelfth, tied with Khalil Mack.
As far as total stops behind the line of scrimmage, PFF comes up with a slightly different number (26) than Pro Football Reference did, but either way he comes in sixth among edge defenders.
For those who may question his consistency in the run game, JPP finished the season with a 7.1% run stop percentage. Tops among edge defenders who faced at least 350 run plays.
If there’s a knock, it’s that he also led NFL edge defenders, with the same qualifications, with seven missed tackles against the run as well.
The New York Giants ended up drafting B.J. Hill with the pick they got in the deal. Hill appeared in three games this past season and finished with half a sack and seven tackles.
Tampa Bay wound up moving back up into the third-round using New York’s fourth-rounder as part of the bait to trade up with those same Vikings.
So, who could the Bucs have had? Well, obviously they could have drafted Cappa about 30 spots earlier(69) than they did at pick 94. Some other potential names Licht might have added to the team with the 69th pick include defensive end Sam Hubbard - who started every game this season for the Cincinnati Bengals and finished with six sacks - and safety, Ronnie Harrison who started eight games for the Jaguars and had one interception.
What’s clear is the Bucs had opportunities to add talent with their third-round pick no matter what they decided to do with JPP and the New York Giants. By making the trade, they’ve sacrificed some age for experience, and in the first year anyway came out on top of the deal.
If Cappa reaches his ceiling, then the trade will be remembered even better.
VERDICT: BUCS GOT A BARGAIN
JPP’s value is magnified by the in-season loss of Kwon Alexander.
But the bottom line remains, there are no talents the Bucs could have drafted with the pick they sent to New York which would have made the impact Pierre-Paul did.
One narrative which floated around after the trade was announced was the fact Tampa Bay has an out this off-season if they want to take it. The contract Pierre-Paul signed with the Giants in 2017 still has two years left on it. However, if the Bucs choose to do so, they can move on from the veteran and save $14.7M in cap space with zero dead money.
In late March of 2018, most expected this to become a reality. Now, the questions of retainability surround many notable names, but none have been Pierre-Paul. It’s fairly clear, Bucs fans want to see JPP back in Ray-Jay for 2019.
The outlook of this defense would be a little darker without his presence. This, and the fact he outplayed his positional pay ranking in every significant statistical category, make JPP an easy call as a bargain for the 2018 Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
One final note, JPP had more sacks than five of the eight defensive ends who carried a heavier cap hit than he did in 2018. But, even if you bumped his 2018 number to his 2019 hit of $14.7M, he moves up to sixth in the NFL among his peers and outperformed three of the five who still cost their team’s even more.
Only J.J. Watt and Calais Campbell would have carried a heavier number and turned in more sacks.
Was JPP worth the cost?
This poll is closed
Overpaid, but the Bucs need him
Overpaid, and the Bucs need to get rid of him
Paid just the right amount
Paid right, but the Bucs still need to move him
Bucs got a bargain
Bucs got ripped off