After an unexpected postseason run came crashing down with an emphatic thud, the New York Giants have some decisions to make — most notably at quarterback and running back.
Daniel Jones and Saquon Barkley have each reached the end of their rookie contracts. Barring new deals or the franchise tag, the former first-round picks will become free agents when the league calendar rolls over to the 2023 season on March 15. The Giants would presumably like to avoid reaching that point with both.
But general manager Joe Schoen indicated on Monday that Jones is the priority. He spoke with reporters about the Giants' offseason during his season-ending news conference. Here's what he said about Jones:
"We're happy Daniel's gonna be here," Schoen said. "We're hoping we can get something done with his representatives, and that would be the goal to build a team around him where he could lead us to win a Super Bowl.
"We're gonna have these offseason meetings here at the end of the week. And we're gonna talk about it. And then with the resources we have, we're gonna talk to his representatives and hopefully get something done."
That's certainly not a case of unbridled enthusiasm. It's not a general manager's job to gush about a player as he readies for high-stakes negotiations with said player's agents. But "we're happy Daniel's gonna be here" sure sounds like Schoen intends to get a long-term deal done. It's a sentiment he alluded to repeatedly on Monday.
"We'd like Daniel to be here," Schoen said. "He said it, there is a business side to it. But we feel like Daniel played well this season. He's done everything we've asked him to. ... We would like to have Daniel Jones back."
So what about Barkley? He returned to Pro-Bowl form this season after consecutive years of being sidelined or hampered by injury. He tallied 1,650 yards from scrimmage and 10 touchdowns while flashing the dynamic playmaking ability that made him the NFL Draft's No. 2 pick out of Penn State in 2018.
The Giants, of course, would like to re-sign Barkley. Schoen said as much, telling reporters that he's "a guy that we'd like to have back." He also added the caveat "if it works out" and noted that the Giants and Barkley weren't close when they discussed a new deal over the Giants bye week.
“We were off on the value and again," Schoen said. "We said we would circle back up at the end of the season and then continue those conversations. But that time of year, we weren’t really that close, I don’t think.”
Barkley recognizes his injury history and told reporters on Sunday that he doesn't expect to "reset" the running back market.
Resetting the market would entail eclipsing Christian McCaffrey's four-year deal that pays him $16 million annually. While he doesn't expect to broach that number, Barkley does seek an annual salary close to it, Fox Sports' Ralph Vacchiano reports. Per the same report, the Giants offered Barkley roughly $12 million per season during New York's bye week in early November.
It all adds up to one of the NFL's most compelling offseason scenarios.
Is Daniel Jones worth breaking the bank?
After declining to extend Jones' rookie contract, the Giants exceeded expectations in 2022 under the newly hired Schoen and first-year head coach Brian Daboll. This time last year, Jones was a certified bust after being selected sixth overall in 2019. Now he's a quarterback with a playoff win on his résumé.
The Giants racked up double-digit losses in each of Jones' first three seasons. He was turnover-prone while tallying 22 interceptions and 29 fumbles over the course of his first two seasons. He's shown steady improvement since, most notably in terms of turnovers and accuracy.
Jones completed a career-high 67.2% of his passes while throwing just five interceptions in 2022. He limited his fumbles to a career-low six. He's also developed into one of football's most effective running quarterbacks. He tallied 708 yards and seven touchdowns on the ground this season. His progress on all fronts was a big reason the Giants made the playoffs.
At the same time, nobody's mistaking Jones for one the game's elite. He averaged 200.3 yards passing per game and threw for fewer touchdowns (15) than games played (16) in 2022. The Giants ranked 18th in the NFL in yards per game and 26th in passing yards per game. This is not a powerhouse passing game.
Under Daboll, the Giants made the most of Jones' abilities to make the postseason, then got trounced by a superior Eagles team in the divisional round. But in the NFL, when you have a capable quarterback, you tend to pony up for the long-term deal. See Kirk Cousins.
The alternative is miring in the struggle to find a quarterback — a powerful motivating tool for teams in the Giants' position. With the goal of signing their quarterback set, the hard part now is reaching agreeable terms with Jones, who's said that he'd "love to be back" with the aforementioned "business side" caveat.
Barkley, meanwhile, is unquestionably one of the game's elite offensive weapons when healthy. He's also a soon-to-be 26-year-old running back with an injury history.
Schoen sounds determined to get a long-term deal done with Jones, which would leave the franchise tag available for Barkley if the two sides don't reach a deal. That also presumes that Jones and the Giants see eye-to-eye on a contract and the Giants wouldn't prioritize using the franchise tag elsewhere.
However the Giants proceed, the decisions will shape the long-term outlook of the franchise.