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Big Blue View mailbag: Daniel Jones’ contract, free agent options, NFL Draft, more

The mail’s here!

It is an interesting, exciting time to be a fan of the New York Giants. Free agency is almost here. The draft is around the corner. Let’s open up the Big Blue View Mailbag and answer some questions.

Jim Moriarty asks: We have a “good” tight end in Bellinger. However, I think that adding either Dalton Kincaid or Darnell Washington to the Giants offense would have more impact than a WR2 or any slot receiver. Kincaid should become a dynamic pass catching weapon, and a safety blanket for Jones (…assuming). Washington would immediately have a major impact on our running game, as effectively a third tackle (H-Back?)-and he can catch and move at an adequate level. In both cases, playing two tight ends would force the hand of the D to play either light (Kincaid) or heavy (Washington). Where and when might you take these guys?

Ed says: Jim, there is more than one way for the Giants to get the receiving help they need. Getting a premium pass-catching tight end is one of those ways, provided Brian Daboll and Mike Kafka were willing to adjust the offense to suit more two-tight end packages.

I think Kincaid, who is a receiving tight end, would complement Daniel Bellinger nicely. Washington, a 270-pound behemoth, is a wild-card. Some see him as a baby Gronk. I think the more realistic/fair comparison is Martellus Bennett.

Where would I draft them? I think if the Giants want Kincaid, they are going to have to take him at No. 25. I have no problem with that if they think he is more of a difference-maker than any of the wide receivers on the board. Washington maybe a little later, but he might not be available at No. 57 in Round 2.

John Foti asks: I think Joe Schoen did a good job on Daniel Jones’ contract. If Jones continues to improve then everybody is happy. If not, then the Giants can get out after two years with a manageable amount of dead cap money in 2025 and 2026 when the cap will be much higher.

Here’s my question. The Giants have provided a two-year window for Jones, Tyrod Taylor is in the final year of his contract, and Davis Webb is gone.

Do the Giants use a 3rd or 4th-round pick on a quarterback this year? If someone like Hendon Hooker is available at the bottom of the third round do you pull the trigger?

Ed says: John, I absolutely think that with 11 draft picks, the need for a third quarterback, and the reality that they probably won’t want to spend significant free agent money on a No. 3 quarterback the Giants could — and probably should — draft a quarterback somewhere in the upcoming draft.

I don’t think that will be Hendon Hooker. I have doubts that Hooker gets out of Round 2, and it seems silly for the Giants to draft a quarterback that early after the contract they just gave Daniel Jones.

On Day 3 of the draft I would think there are several possibilities. I haven’t really studied them, not have I yet asked the great Mark Schofield for his opinion on Day possibilities. I won’t be surprised at all, though, if the Giants use a Day 3 pick on a developmental quarterback.

This is the Daniel Jones’ contract section:

Dan Murphy asks: If Jones’ contract is 4/$160 but as is being said in media is essentially a 3 year deal because of the huge unrealistic numbers in year 4 —- what even is the point of the extra year and all these false numbers? Is there any real value in it in regards to cap manipulation or is it all just smoke and mirrors to claim a bigger contract than it actually is?

Ronald Buchheim asks: Ed, I hope this question isn’t too basic, but could you please explain how Jones signs for 160 million for 4 years but only counts for $19 million against the cap this year. Are they just kicking the can down the road And will suffer financially in future years?

Larry Malakian asks: DJ’s new contract includes $35M in incentives, I presume for Pro Bowl, MVP, Playoffs, SB. Does this $35M count against the Giants salary cap?

Ed says: I am going to take all of the Daniel Jones’ contract questions together and do the best I can to explain how the numbers work, to the best of my understanding. Keep in mind that there are others who understand more about the cap than I do.

Let’s begin with a chart from Over The Cap showing the exact four-year breakdown of the contract:

Let me try to answer as many of these questions as I can, and perhaps even answer a few others along the way.

Yes, Dan, long-term NFL contracts are always a little bit of smoke and mirrors. If you look at the first three years in the contract table above, Jones gets $112.5 million over the first three years of the deal, $82 million fully guaranteed and another $12 million of which converts to a full guarantee on March 15 of 2025. You get that by adding the base salary, which differs each year, the signing bonus and the small workout bonus. That comes to $37.5 million annually.

The last year, during which there is NO GUARANTEED MONEY, is worth $56.5 million. That inflates the average annual value to $40 million, which is what Jones’ camp apparently wanted.

Ronald, I hope that clarifies some of your question. Four years, $160 million does not mean an even distribution of $40 million annually. Teams carve that up based on how much they have available under the current cap and what they anticipate the cap to be in years ahead. The anticipated cap for 2024 is $256 million and for 2025 it is $282 million. The bumps in Jones’ cap hit are more than covered by those cap increases.

Jones basically got $46 million from the Giants the moment he signed the contract. He got $10 million guaranteed for 2024 (salary + workout bonus). He also got his $36 million signing bonus. For salary cap purposes, though, that signing bonus is divvied up annually, $9 million charged to each year of the contract.

Larry, I don’t have access to the contracts. Some media insiders do. A site like Over The Cap, if it doesn’t get the contract details themselves, will credit the place where the information comes from. Often, that is Pro Football Talk.

In terms of incentives, there are two types. Those are ‘Likely To Be Earned Incentives’ and ‘Not Like To Be Earned Incentives.’

Here is the explanation of those:

There are two types of incentives: likely to be earned (likely incentives) and not likely to be earned (unlikely incentives). Likely incentives are performance-based benchmarks put into a player’s contract that he was able to complete in the previous season. For example, Dak Prescott, the Cowboy’s quarterback, had 4,449 passing yards in the 2021 season.

So, a likely bonus could be that he would have 4,400 passing yards in the 2022 NFL season. Likely incentives are included in the team’s cap hits at the beginning of the year. If the player does not end up meeting the criteria, the team gets credited with the amount of the bonus that was not met for the following season.

If a player has a performance-based incentive that he did not reach in a previous year, for example, Dak Prescott passing for 5,000 yards in 2022, this would be considered an unlikely incentive. Unlikely incentives are not counted against the cap, as they are unlikely to occur. Similarly, if the criteria for an unlikely bonus is met, the team’s salary cap the following season will be reduced accordingly.

PFT says this about Jones’ incentives:

The contract also includes $70 million in available incentives, with a maximum payout of $35 million.

Jones will earn $1 million in incentives and a $1 million escalator in each year for being a top-15 quarterback. He can earn another $1.5 million in incentives and a $1.5 million escalator in each year for being a top-10 quarterback. He can earn another $1.5 million of incentives and a $1.5 million escalator in each year for being a top-five quarterback. That’s $4 million in incentives and $4 million in escalators if he’s a top-five quarterback in any given season.

He also has playoff incentives that add up to $5 million in incentives and $5 million in escalators.

As it was explained to PFT, if Jones performs in 2023 as he did in 2022, he will earn another $1.75 million in 2023 incentives and another $1.75 million in 2024 escalators. At that same level over the life of the contract, he’ll earn $12.25 million of the available $35 million, pushing the total value to $172.25 million — an annual average of $43.06 million.

I hope all of that helps you understand the reported structure of the contract.

Jason Byam asks: If the Giants are on the clock at pick 25 and the highest graded player on their board happens to be a right tackle (maybe Darnell Wright), do you think it’s possible the Giants select the right tackle and move Evan Neal to guard? I know it’s waaaay to early to give up on Neal, but wouldn’t he be a solid guard?

Ed says: Jason, how many more times do I have to say this — no, no, no, no, no. The Giants made Neal the No. 7 overall pick in the draft to play right tackle. The young man had a difficult rookie season, but I would be stunned if the Giants gave up on Neal as a right tackle that quickly. They have a lot of spots that could be upgraded with that pick at No. 25 — wide receiver, tight end, linebacker, cornerback, defensive line, interior offensive line. Drafting a right tackle and moving Neal feels like chasing a problem they might not have.

Neal himself said at the end of the season he has played a different offensive line position every year since high school. He was looking forward to spending the entire offseason preparing to play right tackle and spending the season playing it. If he struggles again in 2023, then you have to think about moving him. Not yet.

Spencer Gross asks: Truly awful to hear about USC’s Vorhees tearing his ACL, but what are your thoughts about using a Day 3 pick on him if he’s still available in the 4th or 5th round? He mostly likely would of been long gone by then prior to the injury but getting him in the building and learning the offense with a red shirt year to take over the following year seems like a wise investment. I understand Trey Smith’s medical issue was a different scenario but falling to the 6th round in 2021 and making a full recovery has benefited the Chiefs. Your thoughts?

Ed says: Spencer, the Giants have 11 picks in the upcoming draft — seven of them on Day 3. If they like Andrew Vorhees enough and they feel like taking a player they know they will have to wait a year for is something they are comfortable doing I have no issue with using a Day 3 pick that way. A knee injury is something NFL teams have more understanding of than the medical issues that caused Trey Smith to fall in the draft.

Seth Weissman asks: If you were JS on draft day and had the choice of getting Bryan Bresee, Michael Mayer, Kelee Ringo, Jaxon Smith-Njigba or O’Cyrus Torrence with the first pick, who would you take and why?

Ed says: In a vacuum, given only those choices and not knowing what the Giants do in free agency, my order (as of today) would be:

  1. Smith-Njigba — I just have to give Daniel Jones a receiver here.
  2. Ringo — Not the cornerback I would prefer here (Deonte Banks, cough, cough) but a good get.
  3. Bresee — I have no issue with adding to the defensive line.
  4. Mayer — I think I prefer Dalton Kincaid as a complement to Daniel Bellinger.
  5. Torrence — I could understand this pick. If I am taking an interior offensive lineman, though, I want him to be a player capable of playing center.

Simon Hines asks: I was looking through ProFootballTalk’s Top 100 free agents list, and it struck me how many linebackers are available in free agency. I counted 13 in PFT’s top 100: TJ Edwards; Bobby Wagner; Lavonte David; David Long; Tremaine Edmunds; Germaine Pratt; Bobby Okereke; Eric Kendricks; Leighton Vander Each; Alex Singleton; Drue Tranquill; Azeez Al-Shaair; and Denzel Perryman.

That seems like a lot of potentially good options for Schoen to look at in free agency at a position of need. Do any of those names jump out at you, and do you think the number of LBs available this year will drive down the price of these free agents?

Ed says: Simon, it would not surprise me at all if linebacker is high on the Giants’ shopping list in free agency. Nick Falato has profiled many of the candidates in our Giants 2023 NFL free agency StoryStream.

Tremaine Edmunds stands out because of his connection to Joe Schoen and Brian Daboll from the Buffalo Bills. Not to mention the fact that he will only be 25 next season. David Long, T.J. Edwards and Drue Tranquill are names of interest.

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