The Giants must always examine their present-day conditions through the prism of their glorious past. We’re pretty sure that’s written somewhere in the Bible. So as Daniel Jones prepares to make his first playoff start, it is only natural to talk about Eli Manning.
Some wonder whether Jones can channel “Playoff Eli” starting Sunday at the Vikings. Manning’s two Super Bowl runs still have an air of mysticism, even though the explanation is simple — he just stopped throwing interceptions, especially on the road. Others will preemptively develop excuses for Jones if he does not play well and the Giants lose. Remember that Eli got his head kicked in by the Panthers on his first postseason trip.
Guess what? Manning is irrelevant here. Jones looks and acts like him to some extent, but he is his own man. No matter what he and the Giants do or do not do in Minneapolis this weekend, his standing will not change. Jones is the guy now and in 2023 and likely beyond. And he will get paid a lot of money to be the guy.
The Giants are enamored with Jones. And thanks to his career year and the team’s unexpected success, they have no room to upgrade if they wanted to. Jones is the Giants’ best option at quarterback by far. And if he hits free agency, he will be a top option for many other teams. Including the Jets, in all likelihood.
Jones — and his representatives — know this. Sure, it makes just as much sense for him to stay with the Giants as it does for them to return him. But this is still a business and Jones has the Giants over a barrel. The hopes of a hometown discount have been dashed. His price tag has skyrocketed. The Giants will need to pay market rate. And they will need to keep him from ever reaching the market.
General manager Joe Schoen will try to avoid using the franchise tag on Jones. And he could succeed — WFAN’s Boomer Esiason reported a deal could be close earlier this week. But the odds are against him. Unless the Giants are ready to make a massive commitment, it makes sense for Jones to stand pat and force their hand. The tag guarantees him $32.5 million in 2023. Which is significantly more than his entire rookie contract paid out.
The tag accelerates the Giants’ urgency to strike a deal. They will not want half their projected salary cap space tied up when free agency opens. They still have to re-sign Saquon Barkley and continue rebuilding a roster that remains deficient in many areas. And who knows. Maybe Jones just signs the tag. Kirk Cousins signed back-to-back tags with Washington before cashing in with the Vikings. There is precedent to using it as a ladder to the massive deal.
Do not second-guess the Giants’ decision to pass on his fifth-year option. They made the right given the circumstances at the time. But there was always risk in doing so. And Jones has parlayed it into significant leverage. He has a chance to earn himself more money if the Giants catch fire. But more importantly, he has positioned himself where even a flop against the Vikings should not cost him much, if at all. Jones will get paid no matter what happens Sunday. And by the Giants.
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