Daniel Jones has one more season at most — and only one — to prove he’s the Giants’ quarterback of the future.
As expected, GM Joe Schoen decided on Thursday that he will not pick up the fifth-year option on Jones’ rookie contract as a former first-round pick, a source confirmed.
Leaking that decision only hours before Thursday night’s NFL Draft first round served as a reminder that the Giants are far from set at the sport’s most important position.
Schoen said declining the option was not an indication that the Giants would pick a quarterback this weekend, though.
“We’re always gonna be open to all positions but that doesn’t really affect our draft status this year,” the GM said. “We met on it today and it really doesn’t affect what we think about Daniel. We really like Daniel and the work he’s putting in. We’re excited to work with him. It was just the best decision for the New York Giants at this time.”
Picking up Jones’ option would have guaranteed him a $22.384 million salary for the 2023 season, per sources.
It wouldn’t have made sense for the Giants to lock themselves into that number given that the new regime is in wait-and-see mode on Jones’ ability.
If Jones falters this fall, the Giants will be in the market for a new quarterback in the 2023 NFL Draft.
If Jones plays well and proves his worth, the Giants still have the franchise tag (projected at $31.497 million by overthecap.com) and transition tag ($28.337 million) available to keep him under contract in 2023.
So this is essentially a $5.9 million-to $9.1 million gamble.
That extra cost also probably would be negligible if Jones, 24, played great this season. The Giants and Jones’ agents likely would be working on a contract extension anyway.
The Giants did pick up the fifth-year option on defensive tackle Dexter Lawrence for 2023 on Thursday, a source confirmed.
That guarantees Lawrence a salary of $10.753 million for that season. And Lawrence, 24, still has a chance to earn an extension and fold that money into it, too.
The timing of the Jones decision was interesting, though, considering the Giants did due diligence on this year’s quarterback class that includes names like Liberty’s Malik Willis, Pitt’s Kenny Pickett, UNC’s Sam Howell, Ole Miss’ Matt Corral and Cincinnati’s Desmond Ridder.
But co-owner John Mara said on the record that he’d be surprised if Jones isn’t his Week 1 starter this fall. And ownership enjoyed the fact that many GM candidates told the Giants they had faith in Jones in January.
The 2023 quarterback class also is expected to be much richer than this year’s, headlined by Alabama’s Bryce Young and Ohio State’s C.J. Stroud.
The only problem is the Giants will have competition if they’re trying to draft a QB next year.
Entering Thursday night, the Giants held only one pick in the 2023 NFL Draft’s first round, while several teams already have two: the division rival Philadelphia Eagles, Houston Texans, Seattle Seahawks, Detroit Lions and Miami Dolphins.
Since the Giants are rebuilding, Schoen has been making or taking calls on many of his current roster’s most talented players, from Saquon Barkley to James Bradberry to Kadarius Toney.
But the GM has to be careful he doesn’t tear this down so far that he doesn’t give Jones a fair crack at a winning roster in 2022.
Schoen has said he wants to compete today while building for tomorrow. The reality is that the long term is the priority for the Giants, and has to be, while it’s 2022 or bust for Jones.
It will be fascinating to see if the Giants can turn this around quickly for Jones’ sake, and if Jones will be capable of doing his part.