One year ago, the New York Giants made a bet that Daniel Jones wouldn’t be worth the price of his fifth-year option come 2023, giving them flexibility to either sign him for less money or move on from him at quarterback. By contrast, they kept Saquon Barkley on a fifth-year option in 2022, but didn’t sign him long-term, either.
The effect has been to put both the team’s starting quarterback and lead running back on a one-year trial period under new head coach Brian Daboll and general manager Joe Schoen.
Now the bill’s come due, with both Jones and Barkley excelling in a stronger-than-expected season for New York that only ended Saturday night, in a 38-7 playoff loss to the Philadelphia Eagles.
So while the team has plenty of questions to address this offseason, the decision tree’s roots begin at how much, and even whether, to pay Jones and Barkley.
“We’d like Daniel to be here,” Schoen told assembled media on Monday, in response to the very first question asked. “Again, he said it yesterday – there’s a business side to it. We feel like Daniel played well this season. He’s done everything that we’ve asked him to do. Again, there’s a business side to it. We haven’t went down that road yet. We still have to have our meetings with our staff late in the week, and we’ll devise an offseason plan. We haven’t had those meetings yet, but we would like to have Daniel Jones back.”
The price has gone up, certainly: Jones’ fifth-year option would have run New York $22.38 million in 2023 if the team had exercised it last year. Now, Jones will almost certainly require the franchise tag, and a salary in excess of $30 million, to keep him in New York while the two sides navigate a long-term deal.
As for Barkley, he earned $7.2 million this past season on a fifth-year option, and was well worth it. But what that means for his next contract appears to differ significantly between the Giants and Barkley.
Following the loss to the Eagles, Barkley said he wasn’t looking for in excess of the $16 million per year Christian McCaffrey received in his last contract. But he didn’t suggest he’d take less, and there’s a large amount of room between that AAV and the $12 million per year New York offered him this fall, back when the two sides last discussed terms.
It’s hard to imagine what would have changed since the bye week — Barkley already proved himself capable of being a strong first option out of the backfield by the point, and didn’t tail off much afterwards, nor did he find another level in his game.
“We had productive conversations,” Schoen said. “We were off on the value. Again, we said we would circle back up at the end of the season and continue those conversations, but that time of year, we weren’t really that close I would think.”
The Giants will have north of $50 million to spend in cap space this offseason, a number that will vary based on everything from whether the team franchise tags Jones or Barkley to exactly what Leonard Williams has in mind when he’s suggested taking a pay cut in exchange for some longer-term security.
But whether the 2023 Giants look like the 2022 Giants in the backfield may simply come down to how much another team thinks Saquon Barkley should earn what Christian McCaffrey does. Because if that happens, it’s not likely the Giants are going to spend what it takes to keep him.