Photo Credit: Giants Wire - USA Today
The New York Giants opened up their offseason by finding a new General Manager Joe Schoen and head coach Brian Daboll. The shift in leadership was a welcome change, but now it's time for them to start the massive rebuild of the Giants. But before the draft, the Giants have roster moves and concerns that must be addressed. First is what to do with Daniel Jones and how to navigate his rookie deal.
The Giants are committed to bringing Daniel Jones back for his fourth season. And his first three seasons Daniel Jones has shown flashes, but injuries, turnovers, and inconsistencies along the offense line have slowed his development process. Jones has been under two head coaching regimes and multiple offensive coordinators. Daboll will be the 3rd head coach for Jones and he will have his 4th offensive coordinator in four years. As bad as the offense has been the last 2 years, at least the Giants offense has looked somewhat competent with Daniel Jones under center.
Owner John Mara even publicly said the organization had done everything possible to screw Jones up. That honest admission is an understatement indeed, but the road to recovery starts by admitting you have a problem. Mara and Tisch have done a terrible job in selecting leaders for this team ever since they unceremoniously let Tom Coughlin go. Mara also hinted at not being in the market for a new quarterback because of cap restraints and assets they would have to give up. So dreams of Russell Wilson or Deshaun Watson coming to New York are not on the table. For better or worse, Daboll and Schoen will start their rebuild plan with Jones as the starting quarterback.
Photo Credit: Giants Wire - USA Today
Jones coming back to the team is one hurdle, now they need to figure out how to handle his 5th-year option. The deal with fifth-year options is that they become fully guaranteed when they're picked up. Jones would be in line for around $21.4MM in 2023 if the Giants picked up his option. While the Giants have a lot of cap flexibility in 2023, eating up almost 30% of that cap in a player that hasn't proven to be the future might not be wise. The Panthers picked up Sam Darnold's fifth-year option. The Panthers are going to pay him $18.9MM in 2022, but they benched him for Cam Newton midway through the season.
Jones hasn't always had great offensive line play or healthy weapons to work with, but he was far and away the best option for the Giants. The Giants averaged over 18 points per game in 2021, but the other quarterbacks averaged an awful 9 points per game. Turnovers have always been an issue with Jones, but 2021 saw him start to clean that up. While the interceptions came as the season wore on, the fumbling problems started to come down. But one of the major concerns other than on field performance is Jones health. Jones didn't finish 2021 with a neck injury and has had his share or injuries through his first 3 seasons. He is a big, physical running QB that takes too many hits. Giants fans are use to the Iron Man Eli Manning who always answered the call on Sundays. Keeping Jones healthy, productive and available is the major job Daboll faces. Regardless, Jones is the better option over Mike Glennon or Jake Fromm going into 2022. But guaranteeing more than $21MM to Jones isn't good business.
Everyone has said that year three was Jones's make or break season, but clearly year four is now his prove it or lose it year. The Giants will be wise not to pick up his 5th year option, bring in a veteran quarterback like Mitchell Trubisky that can compete and push Daniel Jones. If Daboll can turn Jones around then the Giants have found their future. If Daboll can't turn him around or Jones again can't stay healthy, then the Giants can avoid a Panthers/Darnold situation and cut ties with Jones. This will allow the Giants to find a new quarterback next offseason either in a projected solid draft, trade market or free agency.
Even if Daniel Jones figures out a way to turn it around, the Giants are still in a good position to keep him as their franchise quarterback. The Giants would use the franchise tag in 2023 to retain Jones. While they would be paying upwards to $40MM, they can create leverage if they want to negotiate a new deal. The Giants are still committed to Jones, but there is no reason to lock in Jones unless you want to save money. But if Jones is your long-term solution, eventually you'll have to pay him top quarterback dollar. But maintaining flexibility and being rational is the best way to go for Big Blue.