- Associated Press - Tuesday, February 28, 2017

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) - In a move that shows he has recovered from a serious hand injury sustained in a fireworks accident in 2015, the New York Giants have placed a non-exclusive franchise tag on two-time Pro Bowl defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul.

The Giants announced the move Tuesday, a day after telling Pierre-Paul and his agent that he would be franchised.

It marked the second time in three years the Giants placed the tag on Pierre-Paul. The other time was in 2015, but the 2010 first-round pick never signed his $14 million tender. It was ultimately withdrawn by the team after the July accident that mangled his right hand, resulting in his index finger being amputated and other fingers being mushroomed at their tips.

Pierre-Paul missed the first half of the 2015 season and eventually returned after signing an incentive-laden $8 million contract.

He wasn’t the same player though, and there was concern he wouldn’t regain the form that made him one of the NFL’s top pass rushers.

The 28-year-old, who was scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent on March 9, had more surgery on his hand after the ‘15 season and his played improved this past season. He had seven sacks, 53 tackles, eight passes defensed, three forced fumbles, and a fumble recovery that he returned for a touchdown.

The Giants will have until July 15 to reach a long-term contract agreement with “JPP.” If no deal is reached, he would have to play the 2017 season under the terms of the franchise tender, expected to be about $17 million.

Pierre-Paul can negotiate with other teams when free agency begins next week. The Giants have the right to match any offer he receives. But if Pierre-Paul signs a contract with another team, the Giants will receive two first-round draft choices as compensation.

Pierre-Paul started the first 12 games in 2016 before missing the final four and the NFC wild-card game after undergoing surgery to repair a sports hernia.

The Giants gave defensive end Olivier Vernon a five-year, $85 million contract. There’s no chance the Giants can spend that much money on Pierre-Paul this year.

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