At the start, a quick review of my articles of faith on Daniel Stephen Jones III:
I do believe that if the Giants identify, acquire and develop the necessary talent to consistently contend, they can win a Super Bowl with Jones at quarterback.
I do believe that Jones has earned a lucrative multiyear deal to remain the starter for the team that drafted him sixth overall in 2019.
I do believe that, like anyone else in any other industry, Jones has the right to ask for a wage that might seem outrageous from the outside looking in.
But I also believe that in a salary-capped sport such as pro football, the most important player — always the starting quarterback — is best served by keeping the team’s best interests in mind as contract talks veer toward the moment of truth. Especially when that starting quarterback will most likely never be good enough to carry his team to a championship.
Patrick Mahomes and only a few other people on the planet can do that kind of carrying. Jones? His upside is that of a second-tier star, an athletic and opportunistic playmaker who will need a lot of help around him to win the whole thing.
And that help will be much harder to sign if Jones bleeds every last possible penny out of the Giants’ coffers while playing a much rougher game of hardball than the team played last year when it declined his fifth-year option.
It now seems Jones might’ve finally come to that realization, as word has hit that some degree of progress is being made against the ticking clock of the Tuesday franchise-tag deadline. Multiple league sources said that Jones’ initial asking price came in at a whopping $47 million-$48 million per year, more than double the value of his declined option.
Talk about payback.
Though the Giants were never going to touch that figure, they remain determined to complete a long-term deal that would avoid the $32.4 million tag and the cap complications it would cause. The team could get creative with some big back-end money that isn’t guaranteed to deliver Jones a contract that reads out at more than $40 million a year.
So yes, Daniel Jones, who threw 15 touchdown passes last season, could brag to his boys in Hoboken that he’s got a bigger annual salary than Aaron Judge, who hit 62 home runs last season. But who’s counting?
That is the quarterback-crazed world that we live in. Jones isn’t the best football player on his team, yet he will always be the Giants’ highest-paid player — by far — for the balance of his prime. His position is everything in the NFL. If you don’t have a quarterback, you don’t have a chance.
Jones is smart enough to know that, which is why he acted the way he did after that blowout loss to the Eagles in the playoffs. He was asked twice if he wanted to be the Giants quarterback in 2023, and both times he declined to say “Yes.” The following day, when he moved to quiet the noise by stating his desire to return and his love for all things blue, Jones added that “there’s a business side of it, too.”
He was always planning to use his leverage. Deep down, in a place he would never show for public consumption, maybe Jones was always hoping to make the Giants pay for refusing to pick up that last year of his deal.
Either way, the exploding quarterback market has put Jones in position to make a killing. He can make that killing and help the team put championship-level talent around him, and now Jones needs to do both.
He needs to give a little on his demands and reach a multi-year deal that gives the Giants the cap space needed to sign some real receivers and other assorted ballers on both sides of the ball. Tom Brady signed multiple team-friendly contracts in New England to advance his cause of winning as many titles as possible. Despite the mind-boggling contract numbers at the time (a 10-year, $450 million extension for a total commitment of 12 years and $503 million), Mahomes actually did the Chiefs a huge cap-relief favor in their bid to keep surrounding him with winners over the long haul.
Decades down the road, Brady and Mahomes will be remembered as the two best of all time. Jones should follow their lead and make a deal that will help the Giants take the next step toward legitimate Super Bowl contention. That approach would also help out his good friend and fellow free agent, Saquon Barkley, who has publicly propped up Jones over the years more than anyone, even when the quarterback didn’t deserve it.
Barkley is a helluva player who can help Jones win some games. The Giants need more players like that, and the cap space to acquire them.
At 25, Jones has earned the right to become a very rich young man. But by Tuesday afternoon, the quarterback who is about to win a lot of money will declare how much he wants to win January and February football games, too.
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