Giants Face Intrigue With Daniel Jones And Saquon Barkley As Franchise Tag Window Opens

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The New York Giants have two players that are unsigned for the 2023 season that they desperately want to keep and that’s why, starting Tuesday, the club will be on a two-week deadline with quarterback Daniel Jones and running back Saquon Barkley.

Today is the first day NFL teams can apply the franchise tag to looming unrestricted free agents.

That puts the Giants under a microscope perhaps more than any other team.

PHILADELPHIA, PA – JANUARY 21: Daniel Jones #8 of the New York Giants passes the ball against Brandon Graham #55 of the Philadelphia Eagles during the NFC Divisional Playoff game at Lincoln Financial Field on January 21, 2023 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)

Giants Have Set Daniel Jones As A Priority

New York doesn’t want to let their quarterback walk, since they don’t have another obvious answer at the position. And they don’t want to lose Barkley, who is possibly one of the best players in the league.

So there are only two solutions here: Sign both to contracts. Or sign one to a contract and use the franchise tag on the other.

The Giants, like all teams, have between Tuesday and March 7 to decide whether to employ the franchise tag. But the Giants, like all teams, know the free agency negotiating period begins on March 13.

So New York has a two-week window for making its franchise tag decision and until March 13 to settle business with its two most important offensive players. Most teams hold off on applying the tag in hopes of striking a contract deal and that’s the direction the Giants are likely to go.

But eventually a solution needs to be found. And the Giants have problems is finding the solutions already.

Start with Jones:

The Giants are convinced he’s the right guy for them and so he is the priority because quarterbacks are hard to find. Jones helped get the team to the playoffs in 2022. He is a solid citizen and fits seamlessly within the culture coach Brian Daboll established in his first season as head coach.

So what’s the problem?

Daniel Jones
EAST RUTHERFORD, NEW JERSEY – NOVEMBER 28: (NEW YORK DAILIES OUT) Daniel Jones of the New York Giants in action against the Philadelphia Eagles at MetLife Stadium on November 28, 2021 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. The Giants defeated the eagles 13-7. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

Daniel Jones Good, But Great?

He’s solid. Good, even. And at 25 years old Jones probably hasn’t reached his ceiling. But he’s not been great. So the Giants don’t want to pay Jones like great quarterbacks such as Patrick Mahomes or Josh Allen.

The club has seen what overpaying a quarterback that isn’t exactly great can do to a team. They can look at Kyler Murray and Russell Wilson to see what overpaying for a quarterback looks like. It gets people fired.

So the club that made a business decision in not exercising a fifth-year option on Jones last year does not want to pay Jones like he’s elite.

The problem is Jones also gets to make business decisions. And he’s already begun.

He reportedly fired his agents and is in the process of hiring new representation. The new reps are going to try to get as much money as Jones feels he’s worth. And everyone knows that the floor for this negotiation is Jones getting $32.4 million per season.

That number represents the non-exclusive franchise tag number for a quarterback in 2023. And using that number in the form of the tag is the only way the Giants can keep Jones next season absent a long-term contract.

The problem in resorting to the franchise tag is that immediately $32.4 million is lopped off New York’s salary cap space. The Giants, with a projected cap space of about $44 million for next season, would find themselves using three fourths of the available space on one player.

And that would mean the Giants, needing help at receiver, tight end and in the secondary, would not be able to do much significant free agency shopping for their other positions of need.

There was one report this week that Jones could get as much as $45.5 million per season in a new multi-year deal. That’s agent talk and is unlikely to happen for a QB who has 76 career turnovers and 72 career touchdowns, including 12 rushing touchdowns.

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ – JANUARY 01: New York Giants running back Saquon Barkley runs during the National Football League game between the New York Giants and the Indianapolis Colts on January 1, 2023 at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey. (Photo by Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Saquon Barkley Could Be Giants Best Player

So you see the problem. Jones wants elite quarterback money. The Giants want to keep Jones but don’t want to pay like he’s Mahomes or Allen. And the franchise tag is something both sides would prefer to skip.

Sounds like somebody has a lot of negotiating to do.

None of this accounts for the fact Barkley sits out there also unsigned for the coming season.

It would be easy if the Giants could get a Jones deal done and then tag Barkley. The running back franchise tag number is approximately $10.1 million for 2023.

That’s less than eight running backs are getting on an annual basis now. And Barkley is not the ninth-best running back in the league. He was actually the league’s fourth-leading rusher with 1,312 yards. So the franchise number is something of a bargain for running backs such as Barkley.

But because the Giants have set Jones as their priority, tagging Barkely is not an a priority now. That tag may have to go to Jones.

A new Barkley deal, which makes sense for everyone, might not happen until after the Indianapolis Combine next week because that is where agents can gauge the league-wide interest for their clients about to become free agents.

Yes, that’s tampering. And, yes, that happens.

Once Barkley understands if there’s a good free agency market for him, he can decide whether to test that market. The Giants could obviously step out and sign Barkley for whatever he’s wanting now.

But that probably isn’t the direction this is going to go.

It’s going to be an intriguing couple of weeks for the Giants.

Follow on Twitter: @ArmandoSalguero

Written by Armando Salguero

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  1. Let Jones test free agency. No way he gets $45 million. No club should pay more that $20 million for him. The Giants have a history of resigning their own free agents to horrible contracts so will be interesting to see if they have learned anything.

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