Daniel Jones is done for the season. Will he ever suit up for the Giants again?
The 2021 season has prematurely concluded for Daniel Jones. The third-year Giants quarterback suffered a neck sprain back in the Week 12 win over Philly and missed the following three games before the team decided to shut him down for the rest of the year on Monday.
This started a conversation about Jones’ long-term health; he’s now dealt with injuries in each of his three professional seasons and a neck injury isn’t anything to take lightly.
It also ignited a conversation regarding whether or not we’ve seen the last of the 2019 first-round pick in a Giants uniform.
There are plenty of arguments for and against the Giants continuing their commitment to Jones at the position. Let’s get into some of the pros and cons.
DJ’s glaring issues
This is a quarterback-driven league. You need a big-game player at that position — such as the Patrick Mahomes, Justin Herbert, Aaron Rodgers type — to succeed.
The Giants don’t possess one, whether you believe it or not.
Jones has always been the turnover-prone, mistake-prone player that isn’t capable of portraying two of the most important qualities that a quarterback (or any NFL player) can portray: consistency and availability.
In regard to the latter, Jones has missed games in each of his first three seasons. A high-ankle sprain led to him missing a pair of matchups in 2019 while another high-ankle sprain and hamstring injury caused him to sit out two more games the following year.
This year, the health issues have been at an all-time high for Jones in his NFL tenure. By season’s end, he’ll have missed six regular-season games — just over 35% of the team’s 17 total matchups.
The consistency (or lack thereof) is additionally a major issue. Jones commenced the season throwing for at least 250 yards in three of four games (with one performance sitting at 249 yards). He then, however, failed to throw for at least 250 yards in his seven subsequent appearances.
There’s also the turnover issue — the back-breaking turnover issue these impatient fans all know and hate.
Jones has 36 fumbles (20 lost) in 38 career games. To make matters worse, DJ has additionally thrown 29 picks in those 38 games.
That’s no way to win, something Daniel hasn’t done much of either. Jones has a career record of just 12-25 as a starter.
Not all his fault?
You can make the argument many of the problems haven’t been Jones’ doing, however.
While the Giants have seemingly figured out the ever-important left tackle position (Andrew Thomas has been awesome this year), Jones has yet to be graced with constant protection from a strong offensive line.
Injuries, poor offseason transactions and drafting, and wrongful player evaluation have led to the Giants dealing with various issues within that specific unit for a number of years.
Jones has also dealt with multiple offensive play-callers since entering the league. While he succeeded under former Giants head coach Pat Shurmur during a promising rookie campaign (24 touchdown passes and 12 interceptions in 13 total games), now-former offensive coordinator Jason Garrett hindered Jones’ development with his conservative approach to the art of play-calling.
You can also attribute Jones’ struggles to the lack of assistance surrounding him. He has hardly played with running back Saquon Barkley on a consistent basis (Barkley missed three games in 2019, 14 games in 2020, and sat out four games earlier this season).
Sterling Shepard, Darius Slayton, Evan Engram, Kenny Golladay, and Kadarius Toney have also dealt with injuries in 2021.
Jones hasn’t been in the situation that, say, Mac Jones has been in with the Patriots or Patrick Mahomes has been in with the Chiefs — not even close.
I’m not saying Jones is at the talent level of a Mahomes, but it’s not like DJ has been overly blessed with incredible support since entering the league.
I understand there are arguments both in support and against Jones. I also understand there are plenty of external reasons/excuses for Jones as well.
Here’s the bottom line: if you’re still discussing whether Jones is the long-term answer nearly three years after he was drafted, he’s probably not the guy.
You must take the big picture into account: the Giants need a new direction after suffering at least 10 losses for a fifth straight season.
There needs to be a clean sweep in East Rutherford.
Dave Gettleman‘s departure is inevitable — Daniel Jones and Joe Judge need to follow him. A new general manager is expected to be in town, and ownership cannot hinder the development of the franchise by forcing a marriage between that general manager and Judge/Jones.
The Giants must switch out all three guys. Luckily, they will have a few different ways of finding Daniel’s replacement…
2022 QB Option No. 1: The 2022 NFL Draft
The Giants could utilize either of their two first-round draft picks to address the issue. Either selection is expected to be in the top 10 due to the struggles surrounding both the Giants and Bears, who traded their pick to Big Blue to move up and draft quarterback Justin Fields last offseason.
Options in the draft may include Pitt quarterback Kenny Pickett, Ole Miss quarterback Matt Corral, and Liberty quarterback Malik Willis.
No, it’s not a strong quarterback class, and there’s the chance the Giants could fall in love with only one of the three aforementioned names. Not to mention, multiple teams in front of the Giants on the draft board could potentially select a signal-caller on the night of the first round.
The order is obviously subject to change, but if the season were to end today, the Giants would have the No. 5 and 6 overall picks. The Jets, Texans, Lions, and Jaguars would respectively possess the No. 4, 3, 2, and 1 picks.
The Jets and Jaguars will not be in the quarterback market due to their 2021 selections of Zach Wilson and Trevor Lawrence.
The Texans figure to be in the market for a signal-caller though due to the ongoing Deshaun Watson situation and the on-field uncertainty surrounding rookie Davis Mills.
It’s unclear if the Lions will seek a new quarterback. You might think they need a new direction given their immense struggles this season, but at the same time, Jared Goff carries an expensive contract that includes a cap hit of $31.15 million and dead cap hit of $30.5 million next year.
He has a potential out in the deal in 2023 though, so an opportunity still exists for Detroit to draft a quarterback in 2022, develop them next season, part ways with Goff after the 2022 campaign, and subsequently move forward with that 2022 draftee.
Having said all that, the Giants’ chances of taking a quarterback they love could slip away early in the first round, which brings us to the next option…
Option No. 2: A Bridge Quarterback
Since this upcoming quarterback draft class doesn’t figure to be a strong one in comparison to others, the Giants could sign a veteran quarterback as a bridge to 2023, when they could subsequently draft someone to be their quarterback of the future.
The free agency market is fluid and there are always bombshell moves and reports, so it’s unclear what may happen about three months from now. But the Giants could consider a one-year deal for a guy like Jameis Winston or Teddy Bridgewater, both of whom possess expiring contracts.
Cam Newton could’ve been an option, but his struggles with Carolina this season have likely turned many off (the veteran has recorded only a 67.8 passer rating in five games this year).
Then, we have the potential blockbuster option…
Option No. 3: Trade for Russell Wilson
With the Seahawks having solidified their first losing season since the beginning of the Russell Wilson era (2012), it’s clear Seattle might be in rebuild mode and may look to trade its franchise quarterback, who could want out anyway.
Reports state Wilson, who has a no-trade clause in his current contract, would ponder waiving that clause if the Giants were to make a move.
— Jordan Schultz (@Schultz_Report) December 8, 2021
As for the potential cost for the longtime Seahawks quarterback, the Giants would probably have to give up at least two first-round picks along with other assets. Given Wilson’s age (he just turned 33) and the fact he hasn’t been consistently great since midway through last year, it wouldn’t cost three first-rounders to land his services.
The Giants could give up the first of their 2022 opening-round picks, their 2022 second-round pick, their 2023 first-round pick, and Jones (barring any indication he has a serious long-term neck injury) for Wilson.
That way, Big Blue would be acquiring an established dynamic quarterback that could thrive with some of the pieces around him (Kenny Golladay, Kadarius Toney, and potentially Sterling Shepard and Darius Slayton). The Seahawks, on the other hand, would be acquiring picks to assist in a rebuild as well as Jones, who would still be on his rookie deal and could possibly be used as a bridge to a quarterback drafted in 2023.
New York would need to clear a great deal of cap space to pull it off though — Wilson’s contract includes cap hits of $37 million and $40 million in 2022 and 2023. Plus, if this plan were to work out for the Giants, the likely expectation is they would need to re-sign Wilson to another deal at some point down the road.
Follow Ryan Honey on Twitter: @RyanHoneyESNY