Daniel Jones
Syndication: The Record

This was supposed to be another dreadful year for Daniel Jones and the Giants, the NFL’s worst team collectively from 2017-21. There were zero expectations, other than another season of double-digit losses and a high-enough draft pick to grab a new quarterback of the future. Jones seemingly had little chance of returning in 2023 unless the Giants won games and he showed improvement.

And here we are. The Giants are 7-2 and Jones is proving to be a fit in head coach Brian Daboll’s offense. While he isn’t an elite passer, Jones has limited the turnovers that plagued him during his first three seasons. And he has stayed healthy, another strike against him in the past.

There is still half a season to play. But all indications are the Giants will have a major contract decision on their hands few saw coming. And it could shape up as the biggest of general manager Joe Schoen’s career.

The case to keep Jones. Let’s preface this argument by saying there’s no way the Giants are franchise tagging Jones. The 2023 quarterback franchise tag is a projected $31.5 million, per Over The Cap. Although it would only be a one-year investment, an annual value of $30-plus million would be a monstrous overpay.

If the Giants retain Jones, it must be on a multi-year deal that carries an annual value less than the projected franchise tag. And signing him might be the right decision.

Jones is a nice fit in the offense and has yet to make the big mistake, which is essentially what the coaching staff has asked of him. Jones knows how this offense must operate, and behind great coaching, is managing the unit to a 7-2 record. While he’s not an elite passer, there’s an argument to be made about what he could do with a better receiving corps and tight end room.

The Giants could also retain him at a team-friendly deal that would leave cap space to address other roster holes. Schoen may offer him $21-23 million per year, which is less than the franchise tag but likely more than what he would get on the open market.

The case to dump Jones. While Jones can manage the game, that won’t be enough in January or February. It’s a quarterback-driven league and the Giants’ run-based formula won’t be sustainable on the big stage.

If the Giants make the postseason — and they’re certainly on track to — we’ll realize very quickly Jones still doesn’t stack up with other playoff quarterbacks.

Jalen Hurts of the NFC East-leading Eagles is averaging 248.2 passing yards per game with 14 touchdowns. Kirk Cousins of the NFC North-leading Vikings, meanwhile, is averaging 261.8 yards per game with 14 touchdowns. Even Tom Brady, amid an underwhelming 5-5 Buccaneers start, is averaging 280.5 yards per game with 12 touchdowns.

To compare, Jones is averaging only 177.3 passing yards per game with eight touchdowns.

Yes, you can chalk that up to the Giants’ run-heavy offense. But again, that formula may work against teams like the Texans, Panthers, and Bears in the regular season. But not in January, when the Giants could find themselves needing to keep up with high-powered offenses like Philly and Minnesota.

Jones has yet to prove he can be a playoff-caliber passer, and if he can’t this January, it will factor into any contract talks.

Verdict. A lot has changed from the summer to now. And a lot more could change from now until the end of the season. But if we must make a decision: a three-year deal paying $22 million annually, structured so the Giants can get out from under it quickly if needed. It’s a team-friendly contract that pays Jones more than he would get in free agency and gives the organization the necessary cap flexibility to address other issues.

Then, the Giants can focus on building around Jones. Sign a wide receiver in free agency or draft one in the first round while possibly franchise tagging running back Saquon Barkley, the offense’s top weapon.

All in all, it needs to be a contract that financially works for both parties so the Giants can still rebuild the roster. It’s the only scenario in which retaining Jones might actually work.

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Ryan Honey is a staff writer and host of the Wide Right Podcast.