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Daniel Jones, Giants are running out of time — franchise tag seems likely

Jones’ agents reportedly leaving Indianapolis with tag deadline looming

NFC Divisional Playoffs - New York Giants v Philadelphia Eagles Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

It is looking more and more likely that the New York Giants will use the $32.4 million franchise tag to keep quarterback Daniel Jones from entering the free agent market.

NFL insider Tom Pelissero tweeted Saturday night that “Jones’ agents from Athletes First are expected to leave Indianapolis on Sunday with no contract resolution in sight.”

Jones’ agents leaving Indianapolis does not mean that negotiations can’t or won’t continue between now and Tuesday’s 4 p.m. ET franchise tag deadline. If a week of daily face-to-face meetings did not result in a deal, though, it is difficult to see how a day or two of text messages, FaceTime or Zoom calls will accomplish that.

Giants general manager Joe Schoen admitted Thursday on NFL Network that “I wish we were a little bit closer on a deal than what we are right now.”

Schoen has been clear that he will not allow Jones to reach free agency. He confirmed on Tuesday in his combine media availability that he will use the tag to keep Jones. Schoen added, though, that both sides understand the tag is not the ideal outcome. Schoen admitted that the tag, all of which will count against the Giants’ 2023 salary cap, would restrict the Giants’ ability to try and strengthen the roster in free agency.

“That’s something everybody realizes,” Schoen said. “If you have to franchise Daniel I don’t think that’s best for the organization and I don’t think it’s best for Daniel, especially as we try to build the team around him and questions about receiver, other positions on the other side of the ball where we may need depth. It does hurt you a little bit in terms of the team-building process but we’re prepared if that’s the scenario we’re faced with we have a Plan B and we’ll try to execute that as best we can.”

Teams often use the tag to continue negotiations with a player, coming to a long-term deal before the mid-July (July 17 in this case) deadline. By that time, a long-term deal must be in place or Jones would have to play the 2023 season on the one-year tag.

Paul Schwartz of the New York Post reported this week that the Giants are not inclined to continue negotiations once the tag is applied. A source told Schwartz that a deal is “probably not going to get done” if it doesn’t happen by Tuesday.

That circumstance would put Jones in another prove-it season, and place the Giants in a precarious financial position for 2023.

The Giants currently have $46.873 million in cap space, per Over The Cap. Tagging Jones would leave them $14.473 million, before whatever relief they will get from releasing wide receiver Kenny Golladay ($6.7 million pre-June 1 cut, $13.5 million post-June 1 cut).

With a rookie class to sign and other holes to fill, tagging Jones would put the team’s ability to keep running back Saquon Barkley into question. Barkley reportedly turned down a contract worth $12.5 million annually around the middle of the 2022 season.

Bonuses, void years and back-loading the base salary amounts of a Barkley contract could lower the 2023 cap hit, but it is hard to see the Giants be able to tag Jones, sign Barkley, sign their rookie class and get anything significant done in free agency.

ESPN suggested Sunday that a four-year, $160-million deal is still possible. From Jeremy Fowler:

Jones’ representatives and the Giants have been working feverishly on a megadeal, with the firm understanding that if there’s no deal by the franchise tag deadline, he’s getting the tag. Some around the league expect this to be a four-year deal in excess of $160 million, though parameters are still fluid.

“A big number is on the table,” a source said about the negotiation. When I ask people in Indy what has surprised them the most this week, the main answer is that the Giants appear comfortable giving Jones a huge deal. They aren’t shying away from these talks.

... I’m also hearing that the Giants will franchise-tag Barkley at $10.1 million should they reach a long-term deal with Jones. New York could also be active in free agency despite the big money attached to Jones. It is looking at improving the defensive front seven.

On Tuesday, Schoen seemed to recognize that tagging Jones could lead Barkley to test his value on the open market.

“I say it all the time, if-then scenarios, we’re going through those. If it gets out of hand and it’s out of our comfort zone we have the tag, we can only tag one player, we’ll use that,” he said. “If someone’s got to walk then that’s unfortunate but that’s a part of the business. We’re still building a team, that’s important to keep in mind.”

Schoen said there would a “line in the sand” in negotiations with Barkley’s representatives.

“You take all that [off-field value] all into account or you wouldn’t approach the player on a contract extension. Walter Payton Man of the Year, I love that about him but you also got to look at production, durability, games played, production versus other comps throughout the league and that’s usually where they land from a financial standpoint,” Schoen said. “We’ve got to draw a line in the sand, like we’re not going any further and if it goes past this, alright let’s shift to Plan B. Hopefully we don’t get to that.”

The next 48 hours could tell us a great deal not only about the 2023 Giants, but the long-term picture for the team, as well.