The Giants’ veterans reported to the Quest Diagnostics Training Center in East Rutherford on Tuesday. Coming off an improbable playoff run, head coach Brian Daboll’s crew — including Saquon Barkley — will look to take that next step toward contention, starting with training camp and Wednesday’s first practice.
Even with Aaron Rodgers hogging much of the attention over in Florham Park, there are various reasons to monitor the Giants as they take on a crucial 2023 campaign.
Here are six storylines to follow as Big Blue opens up camp Wednesday:
Saquon! We begin with the biggest name in the organization: Saquon Barkley. The star running back and the Giants failed to agree to a multi-year extension after the team franchise tagged him in March. The deadline to strike a deal was last Monday afternoon.
Following the failed extension talks, Barkley was either going to have to play on the $10.1 million tag or sit out the season…or come to terms on some sort of one-year deal, which general manager Joe Schoen somehow executed on the eve of training camp.
Despite Barkley reportedly turning down around $22 million in guaranteed money during contract talks, the sixth-year player ultimately agreed to a deal that guarantees him $10.1 million (the tag price) and can only reach $11 million in incentives. With a light $2 million signing bonus.
There’s also no clause in the new contract that prevents the Giants from tagging Barkley again next year for $12.2 million. Which, if you’re the tagged player, is one of the reasons why you even sign a deal this late to begin with.
So the Giants were able to retain their top offensive weapon for the tag price and less than $1 million in incentives, get him to come to training camp, and they can still tag him again next year. Meanwhile, Barkley earns far less guaranteed money than the Giants reportedly offered.
Big win for Schoen. Seems like Barkley and his reps botched these negotiations big time.
Next step for Jones. Daniel Jones has his new contract: a 4-year, $160 million deal with $92 million total guaranteed. But now he must work toward becoming one of the ten best quarterbacks in the NFL (he did get some votes in ESPN’s preseason positional ranking).
Jones greatly improved last year and led the team to its first playoff berth in six years, in a contract year with his Giants tenure on the line. He limited the turnovers that plagued him earlier in his career and Daboll was able to get the most out of the dual-threat quarterback. But he still only finished with 3,205 yards (15th in the NFL) and 15 touchdown passes (tied for 21st).
Daboll must figure out how to make Jones an elite passer in what’s become a league highlighted by the air attack. If not, this new contract wasn’t worth it.
Paydays on the horizon? There are multiple players who could soon sign new contract extensions with the Giants, most notably left tackle Andrew Thomas and safety Xavier McKinney. The latter may need to prove himself after missing eight games down last season’s stretch after injuring his hand in an ATV accident. Thomas, however, is a different story.
The former first-round draft pick is on his way to becoming the highest-paid offensive tackle in the NFL, which is currently the Texans’ Laremy Tunsil at $25 million per year. So if Thomas continues to impress at one of the game’s most important positions, he could get upwards of $26-27 million per year in a new deal. And that’s if someone else doesn’t reset the market before him.
Shaky linebacker competition. We wrote about this last week. Jarrad Davis, who impressed during the postseason last year and was going to compete for a starting inside linebacker job, recently underwent season-ending knee surgery. So the starting spot alongside free-agent signee Bobby Okereke is up for grabs.
But the Giants don’t have many intriguing options.
Micah McFadden lost the trust of the coaching staff last season and wasn’t even active for the two playoff games. Darrian Beavers had a promising camp and preseason last year but is coming off a torn ACL. Meanwhile, Cam Brown and Carter Coughlin are special teamers.
The Giants struggled mightily against the run in 2022 (sixth-worst with 144.2 yards allowed per game), which is why they went out and signed Okereke to a $40 million contract. But will his presence be enough to overcome what could be a massive hole at the other starting spot?
Cost-cutting moves. The Giants could still restructure the contracts of defensive lineman Leonard Williams and cornerback Adoree’ Jackson to gain additional cap space. It’s unclear if general manager Joe Schoen will do that though, which could be a notable issue due to Williams having the third-highest cap hit among all NFL players.
The release of Darnay Holmes is more likely. Cutting the fourth-year nickel cornerback would save the Giants over $2.7 million in cap space. The team could use it, too, as it’s only $3.83 million under the cap (per Over The Cap).
Rookie performances. And of course, it’s important to monitor the youngsters, especially the Giants’ first three picks. First-round cornerback Deonte Banks (Maryland), second-rounder center John Michael Schmitz (Minnesota), and third-round wide receiver Jalin Hyatt (Tennessee) could all assume significant roles. Banks and Schmitz are likely to start, while Hyatt has the opportunity to work toward a WR3 or WR4-type role in Daboll’s offense.
Maybe fifth-round running back Eric Gray (Oklahoma) earns notable preseason reps? Or sixth-round corner Tre Hawkins (Old Dominion) proves he can provide decent depth in the secondary?