New York Giants quarterback Daniel Jones was a huge question mark entering the 2022 season. After three messy, losing seasons the Giants still weren’t sure what they had in the 2019 No. 6 overall pick.
There was a new general manager in Joe Schoen. There was a new head coach in Brian Daboll. They decided not to exercise Jones’ fifth-year option, making the season a one-year trial for the quarterback.
It was exactly what co-owner John Mara wanted. Remember what he said at Schoen’s introductory press conference:
“We do feel that Daniel can play. We’ve done everything possible to screw this kid up since he’s been here. We keep changing coaches, keep changing offensive coordinators, keep changing offensive line coaches,” Mara said. “I take a lot of responsibility for that, but let’s bring in the right group of coaches now and give him some continuity and try to rebuild the offensive line and then be able to make an intelligent evaluation of whether he can be the franchise quarterback or not. I have a lot of hope in Daniel, and I know how badly he wants it. I know how the players feel about him. We are certainly not giving up on him by any stretch of the imagination.”
The Giants got the right coaches. They got a healthy Saquon Barkley. They got production from an unlikely group of wide receivers. Mara got the answer he was always hoping for when it came to Jones.
Yes, the kid can play. He isn’t Patrick Mahomes, but other than Mahomes, who is?
Now, the question is different. The question is how much is it going to cost the Giants to have Jones playing quarterback for them for the foreseeable future?
2022 in review
Starter: Daniel Jones
Backup: Tyrod Taylor
Practice squad: Davis Webb
Perhaps the best thing to do in terms of understanding Jones’ 2022 season is to trace its arc.
When he was hired, Schoen said only that Jones was “a great kid” and that the organization would “try to allow him to put his best foot forward.”
At his introductory press conference Daboll said there were “a lot of things to like about Daniel,” but also added the staff was “not going to make any predictions” about how things would turn out.
The Giants then declined that fifth-year option, putting Jones firmly on notice that he could be the guy Schoen and Daboll would stake their tenures on.
When training camp opened Daboll said only that “we’ll teach him, and let him go out there and play.”
Jones and the offense then proceeded to have an uneven camp during which Daboll made practices difficult on Jones by constantly putting him in disadvantageous positions.
When the season began, the Giants started 7-2. Jones led some late comebacks in those games, but Daboll and offensive coordinator Mike Kafka were careful in what they asked him to do. Only twice in those nine games did Jones pass for more than 200 yards, with a high of 217 in a Week 5 come-from-behind victory over the Green Bay Packers.
At the bye week, you could see that the Giants’ decision-makers had developed some affinity for their quarterback.
“I think Daniel’s done a good job. Those ‘got to have it’ moments, third downs, fourth quarters when you’ve got to have it. And I think he’s answered the bell in a lot of those situations,” Schoen said. “He’s the same guy he was the day we got here in terms of – it’s their time off, and he’s in here at 7:30 this morning having breakfast. It didn’t surprise me a bit. So, he’s a gym rat. He’s always around, and I think he’s done a good job leading the team this year.”
That wasn’t a long-term endorsement. To me, it was Schoen admitting Jones had his attention.
The Giants’ reliance on Jones changed beginning Week 11. Including two playoff games, Jones passed for more than 300 yards three times and more than 200 yards two more times over the final nine games. He threw nine touchdown passes and was intercepted four times in that stretch. He also ran for more than 70 yards three times over the final nine games.
By season’s end, Jones had 3,913 combined passing and rushing yards, 11th among quarterbacks. His 92.5 passer rating was 11th in the NFL. His 1.1 percent interception rate was the best in the league.
Jones had clearly convinced the Giants he was their guy.
“We would like to have Daniel Jones back,” Schoen said while making it clear he had no intention of letting Jones leave.
“I don’t know if there was necessarily an ‘Aha’ moment or anything like that. We just continued to evaluate him throughout the season and what the coaches were asking him to do. And he was executing the game plans. Dabs and I communicate on a daily basis – not just Dabs and I, but the offensive staff and what they’re asking him to do. He continued to improve throughout the season. I don’t know the exact date or time when we’re like, ‘Daniel is our guy,’ but we’re pleased with how he played this season.”
To use the language that the young kids use, the only question is how heavy will the bag be that the Giants need to hand Jones to keep him around?
The Giants appear to be negotiating first with running back Saquon Barkley, with Schoen saying at the Senior Bowl he has not started talks with Jones’ representatives yet.
My read on that? The Giants would like to get a Barkley deal done, or know that is not going to happen on terms they are comfortable with, and keep the $32.416 million quarterback franchise tag as a tool to utilize in talks with Jones.
That tag number is likely the low end of negotiations for Jones.
There are 11 quarterbacks who make more than that $32.416 million average per year. The low end of that is Jared Goff ($33.5 million) and Kirk Cousins ($35 million). Next are Dak Prescott and Matthew Stafford at $40 million.
It isn’t hard to see Jones looking for more than Goff or Cousins. It isn’t hard to argue that he is as good or better than either. The way Prescott played in 2022, with 15 interceptions in 12 games and a two-interception performance in the playoffs against the San Francisco 49ers, it isn’t out of the question to believe Jones’ reps will begin negotiations somewhere in the $40+ million range.
Contract structure — number of years, bonuses, incentives — are all going to be critical to ease the cap burden as much as possible.
Jones, though, is going to be the Giants’ quarterback in 2023.
Can the Giants protect him better? Can they get him more, and better, playmakers to deliver the ball to? How much will another year with Daboll, and probably offensive coordinator Mike Kafka, help him continue to ascend?
We will find out in the fall.