Plenty of things have been written and said in the aftermath of last weekend’s flurry of reporting regarding the decision of Giants quarterback Daniel Jones to change agents. We haven’t responded to each and every report or take that questioned that notion (as floated here) that Jones is looking for $45 million or more per year.
Now that the dust has settled on various dribs and drabs of news and reactions to the news about Jones, here’s a few things to ponder as the March 7 deadline for applying the franchise tag inches closer.
First, someone suggested that the $45 million figure came from CAA, in an effort to make Jones look bad after Jones fired CAA and hired Athletes First. Although I never reveal sources, I’ll say in this instance that the source was not CAA or anyone who got the information from anyone at CAA. And that’s all I’ll say about that.
I’ve got theories as to why someone would leak to someone else the idea that the number was the product of CAA sour grapes but, again, that’s all I’ll say about that.
Second, I got no pushback from anyone connected to the situation. Not from the Giants, not from the agents, not from anyone. While that’s not entirely dispositive as to the accuracy of the information, I’ve gotten plenty of calls and texts over the years when someone strenuously objected to something I wrote or said.
Third, some have said there were never any offers exchanged between the Giants and Jones. While there may have never been any formal offers, why would Jones fire CAA and hire Athletes First if Jones if CAA hadn’t been trying to get him a deal? There’s no reason to fire CAA unless Jones isn’t happy with their work. He wasn’t upgrading from Slappy McSlapperson to a major firm. He went from one major firm to another major firm.
Even without formal offers being exchanged, discussions were happening and numbers were being mentioned and it became clear that: (1) there was a major divide; and (2) Jones wasn’t happy with CAA’s effort to close the gap.
Fourth, Pat Leonard of the New York Daily News confirmed that Jones changed agents because he wants more than what CAA was going to be able to get. Again, that doesn’t happen if numbers aren’t being exchanged, even if there aren’t formal offers being made.
Fifth, $45 million isn’t an absurd demand, given the current market, Jones’s performance in 2022, the Giants’ current alternatives, and the ever-increasing nature of the salary cap. For quarterbacks, the ball is moving north of $50 million per year. And while the team-friendly Patrick Mahomes contract makes it hard for lesser quarterbacks (i.e., every other quarterback on the planet) to get more, it’s important to view the Mahomes deal as the exception and not the rule. (And, yes, he should be banging on owner Clark Hunt’s door right now, demanding a modification to his ultra-long-term deal.)
Sixth, and finally, is there an alternative to Jones and the Giants playing the Kirk Cousins franchise-tag game, with Jones tagged for two years and then leaving? Maybe. During a Friday conversation with John Schmeelk of the Giants Huddle podcast, Schmeelk floated the idea of a short-term deal for Jones and the Giants. The more I talked through it, the more sense it made.
If the Giants were to offer Jones a two-year contract that fully guarantees the money he’d make under the tag over the next two years ($32.416 million for 2023 plus a 20-percent raise for 2024), that’s $71.315 million in all, an average of $35.65 million.
But what about 2025? Under the tag dance, Jones would get a 44-percent increase over what he’s due to make in 2024. That’s $56 million or a ticket to free agency.
So what if the Giants offer $71.315 million over two years, fully guaranteed, with an agreement that he won’t be tagged in 2025? It would give both sides two years to work out a long-term deal, and it would give the Giants two years to confirm that 2022 wasn’t an aberration.
This gives Jones certainty for two years, shifting that risk that he’ll get injured or regress in 2023 to the Giants. Basically, he gets a guarantee of two years of franchise-tag money.
What’s in it for the Giants, you ask? Well, Jones would be under contract. If he’s tagged, he can (if he chooses) withhold services until just before the start of the season. (Of course, he possibly wouldn’t do that, because he’d also be hurting himself if he weren’t ready for the 2023 season.)
This approach also would free up the franchise tag to be applied on running back Saquon Barkley. Which will help Jones perform even better in 2023.
Absent something creative like that, it’s likely going to be the franchise tag for Jones. If he’s looking for anything more than $35 million per year (and he is), why wouldn’t the Giants offer $32.416 million for one year and see if he can replicate in 2023 what he did in 2022?