EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Brandon Jacobs, the 264-pound running back who has been a mainstay of the New York Giants' offense the past two seasons, was designated by the team Friday as its franchise player.
The move will guarantee Jacobs, who was due to become a free agent Feb. 27, $6.6 million next season. General manager Jerry Reese said the Giants and Jacobs will continue negotiating a long-term deal. If he remains a free agent, the Giants can match any offer made by another team or allow him to sign with that team in exchange for two first-round draft picks.
Jacobs, who ran for 1,089 yards for a 5.0 average and a team-leading 15 touchdowns, said all fall that he wants to remain with the Giants. Reese said the team decided on the franchise tag because of the Feb. 19 deadline to hand out that designation.
"With the deadline approaching it was the right business thing to do at this point, although we are hopeful to get a longer term deal hammered out in the near future," Reese said. "I did speak to Brandon and we had a very good conversation today."
"That is the reason I am being franchised," Jacobs said. "Buying more time to get a deal done."
Derrick Ward, who ran for 1,025 yards to make the Giants only the fifth team ever with two 1,000-yard running backs, is also due to become a free agent. The Giants' No. 2 running back is likely to command big money to be a starter elsewhere.
If he leaves, he could be replaced by Ahmad Bradshaw, who rushed for 355 yards last season, and Danny Ware, who was impressive in exhibitions but had just two carries for 15 yards during the regular season.
"I had Derrick last year and we were a team and we did it together," Jacobs said in a statement released by the team. "I have Ahmad and Danny that are going to be back this year. I don't know what the chances are with Derrick, but I just try to make the guys around me better."
Head coach Tom Coughlin seemed to indicate in the statement that the team had made a clear choice between their two top backs and made Jacobs the priority.
"I never felt Brandon would be anything but a New York Giant," Coughlin said. "There isn't any question that when you talk about being a physical football team, he gives you that physical edge as a runner, a pass protector or catching the ball coming out of the backfield. He's a valuable, valuable part of our team and of the philosophy and the concept by which we play. It's important for our team going forward that he's a Giant."