Joe Schoen
Trevor Ruszkowski | USA TODAY Sports

Giants general manager Joe Schoen was tasked with two of the largest decisions of his career this week. By Tuesday’s 4:00 p.m. NFL franchise tag deadline, he needed to resolve the futures of both quarterback Daniel Jones and running back Saquon Barkley.

Tagging Jones would’ve likely led to Barkley departing in free agency, and Schoen wished to retain both. Re-signing Jones was the favorable outcome.

And in the final minutes before the deadline, in the heat of the moment, Schoen delivered. By coming to terms with Jones on a four-year, $160 million deal and placing the tag on Barkley, Schoen has secured both for the 2023 season.

Schoen’s plan. How Schoen handled the Jones decision was always going to affect Barkley’s future in blue. If Jones and the Giants couldn’t come to terms, Schoen would’ve tagged the young signal-caller. This would’ve committed $32.4 million in cap space to Jones in 2023 and likely forced the Giants to let Barkley walk. There’s no way Schoen would’ve signed Barkley to a long-term deal at that point.

The ideal scenario, for many, was always re-signing Jones so the Giants could tag Barkley. This would’ve kept Jones’ 2023 cap hit low so the Giants could commit $10.1 million (the tag price) to Barkley while using the remaining cap space to improve other areas of the roster.

That was the goal of this front office from the beginning, which is why the two parties (the Giants and Jones) worked right up until the deadline to get the deal done.

The Jones contract. Jones’ average annual value was once thought to be in the $35-37 million range. But as is with many quarterback contract negotiations in today’s NFL, Jones’ reps went hard. It was eventually reported Jones was asking for more than $45 million per year in a new deal.

And in the last-minute agreement, Schoen and Jones met in the middle, with Jones getting a $40 million average salary across four years (with $35 million in incentives). This ties Jones with the Cowboys’ Dak Prescott and the Rams’ Matthew Stafford for the seventh-highest-paid quarterback in the NFL, per Over the Cap.

I know what you’re thinking: $40 million per year is a whole lot for a guy who only threw 15 touchdowns and 3,205 yards last year. And it totally is.

But you must understand that the average value, if anything, is a faux number. You need to read the fine print of the contract, and the fine print certainly benefits either party.

While Jones does get his luxurious $40 million average value, the 2023 cap hit is only $19 million, which will allow the Giants to spend. Jones is guaranteed $82 million, but only over the first two years, so the Giants realistically could get out from under the deal after two seasons if need be. Overall, Jones could be guaranteed $94 million, with the remaining $12 million (year three) possibly triggered after year one, suggested (but not confirmed) by The Athletic’s Dan Duggan.

The $40 million figure is eye-popping, but this is exactly the type of contract that seemingly benefits both parties.

Barkley’s tag. If the Giants were going to retain Barkley, it needed to be on the one-year tag. A multi-year deal worth $12-14 million per year, or one that exceeded Christan McCaffrey’s league-leading $16 million average salary, would’ve been a waste. Paying running backs a second contract, historically, hasn’t worked out in NFL teams’ favor.

The tag was always the way to retain Barkley, and it still is — the Giants shouldn’t even look into signing him to a long-term deal ahead of the July 15 deadline.

Now, will the $10.1 million investment fully pay off? Probably not — Barkley is entering his sixth season (definitely not young for a running back) and slowed down during the second half of his 2022 Pro Bowl campaign. But this was the only way for Barkley to return to East Rutherford, where head coach Brian Daboll can maximize Saquon’s talents and provide Jones with a familiar face in the backfield.

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