Daniel Jones
Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

Giants general manager Joe Schoen will be put to the test in his first full offseason with the team. How he addresses the receiving corps, linebacking corps, and the future of running back Saquon Barkley will determine if the Giants progress after a shocking 2022 playoff berth.

But before solving any of those issues, Schoen needs to tackle the team’s top priority: Daniel Jones’ future.

What the Giants decide to do with their starting quarterback will dictate how they operate the rest of the offseason.

Jones’ dilemma. The Giants have two realistic options: either sign Jones to a long-term deal or franchise tag him. They can’t let him walk given the scarce quarterback market and the fact they don’t draft until No. 25 overall.

The franchise tag for quarterbacks is set at $32.4 million. So Jones’ reps are likely fighting for a long-term deal that would give him an annual salary higher than that mark. Somewhere in the $35-40 million-per-year range. If the Giants were to reward him that kind of payday, it would need to be a contract lasting 4-5 years so Schoen could spread out Jones’ cap hits as much as possible.

Schoen might not want to make that financial commitment though. Jones greatly improved this past season but still finished with only 15 touchdown passes (tied for 21st among quarterbacks) and 3,205 passing yards (15th). So there’s an argument against giving Jones star quarterback money after he didn’t exactly put up star quarterback numbers.

With that said, expect Schoen to hold onto that franchise tag in the event he must use it to retain Jones. Which brings us to our next point…

Barkley’s dilemma. There are also two possible routes to take with Barkley: tag him or let him walk.

The Giants cannot sign Barkley to a long-term deal. Signing a running back, especially one who’s injury-prone, has historically been a mistake. And although Barkley set a career-high in rushing yards (1,312) in 2022, he slowed down in the second half of the season. Barkley averaged 97.4 rushing yards per game through the first eight weeks before averaging only 66.6 yards the rest of the way. He then rushed for only 114 yards combined in the two playoff games.

Barkley’s camp reportedly turned down a $12 million-per-year extension during the bye week. So a long-term deal would have to include an AAV higher than that. And that’s way out of the price range for a running back who’s declining in value.

Thus, the tag is the only legitimate tool to retain Barkley, but the Giants might be better off not using it. Schoen needs to keep the tag in the event he must use it on Jones. And even if the tag is there for Barkley, it would be a one-year, $10.1 million deal. It’s risky paying a running back that much when you don’t know if he’ll be as dynamic, especially when there are other spots to address.

Other positions of need. Besides the Jones and Barkley situations, the Giants have various other needs, as has been well documented. Wide receiver and inside linebacker come to mind.

The Giants are currently $46.9 million under the cap for 2023, per Over The Cap. With cost-cutting moves (i.e the imminent release of expensive wide receiver Kenny Golladay) still to be made. Seems like a goldmine after former GM Dave Gettleman put the team in financial purgatory. But it’s not unlimited wealth.

Tagging Jones would take $32.4 million in space off the table and provide the Giants with a tight window to add offensive assistance and a versatile linebacker. Signing him to a long-term deal, however, would spread out the cap and provide the Giants with more flexibility to improve the roster this offseason. Along with the cap needed for internal and external free agents, Big Blue also needs about $3.2 million in space to sign its rookie class, per OTC.

The verdict. So before anything else, Schoen needs to make a choice on Jones’ future. That decision will affect what the front office does with Barkley and the other roster needs.

The correct move: sign Jones to a long-term deal, let Barkley walk, and use the remaining cap space to address the other roster spots.

They need to limit Jones’ 2023 cap hit and can’t dedicate so much money to the lower-valued running back position. If there weren’t so many other question marks throughout the roster, maybe Schoen would take a different route. But unfortunately, it’s the hand that’s been dealt.

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