On one hand, the Giants are saying all the right things about Daniel Jones being their long-term answer at quarterback. On the other hand, they’ve yet to take the one specific action that would give their words true credibility.
They’ve yet to pick up the fifth-year option on Jones’s rookie contract.
“That’s not a decision we’ve made as of yet,” Giants co-owner John Mara said Sunday, via Dan Duggan of TheAthletic.com. “That’s a discussion we’ll be having over the next month or so.”
As new G.M. Joe Schoen explained during a visit to PFT Live at the Scouting Combine, the Giants plan to take advantage of their opportunity to learn more about Jones before making the decision.
“The advantage that we have is that with [Brian] Daboll being a new head coach, the players will be in the building on April 4th,” Schoen said on March 2. “We’ll get to have a chance to have a minicamp the week before the draft. Again, we’re going to take our time with the process. We’re going to be around Daniel. We’re going to get the chance to see him throw and work with the guys that we have. We don’t have to have a decision until May 2nd. We’re going to be patient with that decision.”
It makes sense. But it’s also hard to reconcile their hesitation with the repeated glowing remarks, including Sunday’s proclamation from Mara that the Giants believe they have a keeper in Jones.
The Giants have several options for proceeding. If they exercise the option, he’ll be under contract for 2023 at a fully-guaranteed salary of $23.384 million. If they wait — and if they change their mind about Jones — they’ll be able to walk away after 2022, with no further obligation. If they wait and then realize Jones is the guy, they’ll have to use the franchise tag (which will be in excess of $30 million next year) to keep him around for 2023.
They also could try to sign him to a long-term deal now, one that doesn’t have the franchise tag as a starting point. The problem then becomes picking the right spot on an ever-widening array of quarterback salaries. If the Giants have one range in mind and Jones’s representatives have another, it could be very difficult to pinpoint the right number.
Jones also could be willing to wait. To see how it plays out. To bet on himself.
The problem with betting on yourself is that sometimes the bet pays off; sometimes it doesn’t. Complicating matters (or not) would be New York’s bottom-line offer. The higher it is, the riskier Jones’s self-wager becomes.
From the team’s perspective, the fact that the fifth-year option is now fully-guaranteed when exercised (and not just guaranteed for injury, like it used to be) makes it a tougher call. Entering the 2020 season, the Bears opted not to exercise the fifth-year option on Mitch Trubisky. They bet paid off, in a way. They would have regretted exercising the option, and they never faced the regret of not controlling his rights for 2021.
If the Giants do the same, it will be a clear sign (based on Schoen’s explanation from earlier this month) that they haven’t seen enough from Jones in the first month of the offseason program to justify investing $23.384 million in order having to avoid tagging him at more than $30 million in 2023. If they do, it will be an endorsement of Jones for at least two years.
Ultimately, the Giants may regard the decisions made last year by the Panthers with Sam Darnold and the Browns with Baker Mayfield as a cautionary tale. Both franchises would now admit that they made a bad call regarding their would-be franchise quarterbacks. Both teams are now stuck with fully-guaranteed salaries of $18.8 million for 2022 for players they’d rather not have on the roster, especially not at that number.
There’s a way for the Giants to tiptoe through this one, without openly disrespecting Jones. However, the more they praise him in the short term, the more strange it will seem come May 2, if their final decision on Jones’s fifth-year option is, “Nah. We’re good.”