The New York Giants and Daniel Jones have reached a long-term contract that will prevent the Giants from having to use the franchise tag to keep the quarterback off the free agent market.
Ryan Dunleavy of the New York Post was first with the news. The deal was announced with just minutes to spare before the 4 p.m. ET franchise tag deadline.
Ian Rapoport is reporting that the contract will be “a 4-year deal worth $160M, sources say, with $35M more in upside.”
Giants general manager Joe Schoen had been adamant since the end of the 2022 season that Jones would be the team’s quarterback in 2023, and that while the tag was not his preferred option he would use it to keep the quarterback if he had to.
“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,” Schoen said last week at the combine. “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.”
As we now know, the Giants won’t have to.
In making the signing official on Tuesday evening, Schoen said:
“We are all pleased that we were able to come to an agreement prior to today’s deadline. This gives us a greater ability to continue to build our roster.”
Here is how Jones reacted:
“I said after the season I love this place,” Jones said. “I’ve really enjoyed my time here and I want to be here. I have great respect for this organization, the Maras, the Tisches, my coaches and teammates. I am happy we were able to come to an agreement.”
So, what happens next? Let’s assess the ramifications of the deal.
Where does this put Jones on the QB pay scale?
The $40 million average annual value ties Jones with Dak Prescott of the Dallas Cowboys and Matthew Stafford of the Los Angeles Rams. Only six quarterbacks make more on an annual basis.
On Monday, veteran quarterback Derek Carr signed a four-year, $150 million contract with the New Orleans Saints, an average annual value of $37.5 million. Per Ian Rapoport and Mike Garafolo, Carr received $100 million in total guarantees. He gets $70 million effectively fully guaranteed ($60M at signing, another $10M in Year 3 vesting after Year 1). So, Jones did slightly better than Carr.
We will have a more in-depth look at the contract as the details become available, but for now there is this from Albert Breer:
Giants QB Daniel Jones will take home $82 million over the first two years of his four-year, $160 million deal, per source. So the base of the first two years of his deal bests the three-year base in Geno Smith's deal.— Albert Breer (@AlbertBreer) March 7, 2023
The reporting to this point seems to indicate that the $82 million figure used by Breer is the extent of the guaranteed money. That means the Giants could get out of the deal — with an undetermined amount of dead money — after the 2024 season if they chose to do that.
Jeremy Fowler of ESPN is reporting that Jones’ 2023 cap hit is expected to be around $19 million. That is roughly $13 million less than the $32.416 million quarterback franchise tag. It means the Giants get Jones and Saquon Barkley ($10.1 million franchise tag) for less than tagging Jones would have cost, and maintain some flexibility in the free agent market.
Here is how Ian Rapoport broke the deal down:
Details on the #Giants deal for QB Daniel Jones:— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) March 7, 2023
-- 4 years
-- $35M more in incentives
-- $82M over the first two years
-- $94M virtually guaranteed at signing.
-- First-year cap number around $19M.
What about the cap?
Getting Jones to sign on the dotted line and not needing to use the franchise tag is a boost to the Giants’ cap situation.
Every dollar of the $32.416 million tag would have counted against the team’s 2023 salary cap. That is one of the major reasons why the team did not want to have to use it. Before applying the the tag to Jones the Giants had $46.873 million in cap space per Over The Cap. That number would have been reduced to $14.457 million.
The Giants will get additional cap space when they release wide receiver Kenny Golladay, something they have already announced will happen when the league year opens on March 15.
The team has not said whether Golladay will be a pre-June 1 cut (saving $6.7 million against the cap that would be available immediately) or a post-June 1 cut (saving $13.5 million that would not be available until June).
The Giants could get additional cap relief by extending the contract of defensive lineman Leonard Williams, who carries a $32.26 million cap hit, which is 14 percent of the team’s $224.8 million cap.
Still, the cap savings from signing Jones will allow the Giants to be more aggressive in free agency. Exactly what those cap savings will be won’t be known until the exact breakdown of the contract is revealed.
The impact on Saquon Barkley
Having gotten a deal done with Jones, the Giants used their franchise tag on running back Saquon Barkley.
Barkley is said to have rejected a deal during the 2022 season that would have paid him an average of $12.5 million over the next several seasons. The Giants have not appeared to be willing to go much, if at all beyond that.
The 2023 running back franchise tag is $10.1 million. The Giants decided that would be money well spent to keep Barkley in New York for his age 26 season, which will be his sixth in the NFL.
The Giants could then use the 2023 season to evaluate whether or not they want to go forward with Barkley as their featured back. There is also the possibility that Barkley and the Giants reach a long-term deal before the July 17 deadline.
Barkley tweeted Tuesday that he is happy for Jones:
The rest of free agency
Schoen had hoped to enter free agency being able to pursue a higher tier of free agents than he did last season, when severe cap restrictions forced him to cut cornerback James Bradberry and mostly pursue players willing to accept one-year minimum salary or veteran salary benefit contracts.
Getting Jones to sign, and getting some relief from moves with Golladay and Williams, should allow him some wiggle room to do that — even with Barkley on the franchise tag. There won’t be cap room for a mega-splurge, but there should be room to pursue a few players who might be looked at as more than stop-gaps.