daniel jones giants
John Jones | USA TODAY Sports

The Giants want Daniel Jones back in 2023. And it’s hard to argue the quarterback has not earned the right to stay. His stirring performance in Sunday’s playoff-clinching win over the Colts erased any lingering doubt.

But this is still a business. And the fundamentals of Jones’ impending free agency have likely changed. He is the Giants’ best option at the position next season. But there may be other interested parties, starting with the quarterback-needy team across town. That changes things, especially from a financial standpoint.

That begs the question: Will the Giants be forced to give Jones the franchise tag?

Forget about quickly re-signing Jones to a “safe,” team-friendly deal after the season. That ship has likely sailed. Jones has positioned himself to cash in if he gets to free agency. That means the Giants either give him a market-rate deal before he can talk to others — one that likely goes much further in years and guaranteed money than they would like. Or they swallow hard, tag him and effectively give him a one-year, $32.5 million deal (and cap hit).

That move would ensure Jones stays put. But it would also complicate the ongoing rebuild of the roster. The Giants are projected to have roughly $60 million in cap space this offseason. Jones’ tag figure would take up more than half. And general manager Joe Schoen does not have any obvious cuts to free up more aside from wideout Kenny Golladay.

This is a team that, surprise playoff berth aside, still needs a significant amount of work. Even if Jones’ big cap hit is a placeholder to an eventual long-term deal, it could negatively impact how Schoen and head coach Brian Daboll approach free agency. And in a worst-case scenario, it could hinder their efforts to re-sign Saquon Barkley.

Most conventional wisdom about offseason plans has involved the Giants tagging Barkley at a projected $10 million hit. But you cannot tag two players. And if Jones must be tagged, the Giants risk losing Barkley to a higher bid.

Many will claim the Giants have a “good” problem with Jones now. We would disagree. There are certainly worse issues to grapple with, but make no mistake: The Giants have lost control of the situation moving forward. Declining Jones’ fifth-year contract option was the right move. And bringing the quarterback back on a manageable multi-year deal with an escape hatch would have been a good move. But now the Giants will have to put their money where their mouth has been — literally.

They behave like they completely sold on Jones. Even as Daboll and offensive coordinator Mike Kafka have seemed to work around him at times. And even as Jones’ ability to stay healthy and avoid turnovers this season remains a career outlier. No matter. The Giants have signaled Jones has convinced them he is their franchise quarterback. To be fair, he looked like it against Indianapolis. And now Schoen probably has no choice but to pay him as such and fully commit, even if there remain rational reasons for skepticism.

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James Kratch can be reached at [email protected]

James Kratch is the managing editor of ESNY. He previously worked as a Rutgers and Giants (and Mike Francesa) beat reporter for NJ Advance Media.