Daniel Jones: Why the Giants were forced to pay up

Daniel Jones, in the Giants victory over the Minnesota Vikings, 31-24 on January 15th,  2023. The game was the first playoff berth for the franchise since the 2016 season and first playoff win since the Giants won the Super Bowl over the New England Patriots following the 2011 season.

Daniel Jones' massive contract: Why the Giants had no other choice but to pay

Written and edited by Seth Brown

1:41 pm, March 9th, 2023

On March 7th, 2023, the Giants released news that they had signed Quarterback Daniel Jones to a 4-year contract extension worth $160 million, including incentives and bonuses. Paired with the news released around the same time of Lamar Jackson receiving the non-exclusive franchise tag, the contract began to raise many questions about why Daniel Jones received such a luxurious contract with relative ease, while Jackson, a once-unanimous League MVP, still struggles to receive a similar, or higher, deal. Despite the Giants organization receiving much criticism following the announcement of the deal, ultimately, they were not left with much choice.

In the 2022 campaign, Daniel Jones had relatively unimpressive stats. In the regular season, Jones threw for 3,205 yards and just 15 passing touchdowns. On the ground, Jones did post another 708 yards rushing and 7 touchdowns on the ground. Coupled with 5 interceptions and 2 fumbles, Jones did not have the most eye-catching season, although his turnovers drastically decreased from prior seasons. Despite the unimpressive stats, Jones' improved turnover ratio, as well as an impressive team effort, led the Giants into the postseason and a playoff win over the 13-4 Minnesota Vikings, 31-24. Although the Giants would receive a thumping the next week by the Philadelphia Eagles, 38-7, the regular season success and postseason win were the best the Giants have done in a season*, both regular and postseason, since their 2011 Super Bowl win.
*In 2016, the Giants won 11 games, compared to the 9 wins the Giants achieved in 2022. Despite winning less games, the 2016 Giants saw less playoff success than the 2022 Giants. 

Despite the turnaround in New York and improved turnover margin from Daniel Jones, many still criticized the value of the contract as a drastic overpay. Although Jones may not be worth $160 million over 4 seasons, the Giants were not left with much of a choice. 

Many teams get their Quarterbacks through the NFL draft, hosted every April, which allows teams to select players coming out of College. In the 2023 NFL draft, there are 4 Quarterbacks - Anthony Richardson, CJ Stroud, Bryce Young, and Will Levis - that are considered potential NFL Quarterbacks. However, the Giants success in the regular and postseason landed them the 25th overall pick - much farther into the draft than any of these Quarterbacks are expected to fall too. So, if the Giants wanted an alternative to paying Jones, the draft would not find them their replacement, as they are ultimately too good to be able to draft one. However, there is another place teams get their Quarterbacks - other teams. So, what about that option?

In trades and free agency, the Giants land on the opposite side of the issue as they do in the draft - they ultimately aren't good enough. The big names in Quarterback news as of now are Lamar Jackson and Aaron Rodgers. Both of these Quarterbacks would provide an immediate upgrade to Jones for the Giants. So, if they are available, why did the Giants choose paying Jones big money instead?

Due to the non-exclusive franchise tag placed on Jackson, if the Giants were to offer a deal, and the Ravens allowed it, they would be on the hook for two first round picks to Baltimore. Considering the Giants are fresh off of a rebuild and still need high draft picks to add to their abysmal receiving core, this trade may be considered a dealbreaker to the Giants. Jones proved that, with such a bad receiving group in 2022, he can still lead New York to a playoff win. So, why give up the chance to draft better receivers for a better Quarterback, when your current Quarterback already proved he can succeed with worse? To the Giants, it may seem more desirable to field a worse Quarterback, but keep the ability to field a much better receiving core to help Jones out. 

Although no price has been placed on Aaron Rodgers by the Green Bay Packers, rumors have floated around that Rodgers would cost around the same as Jackson - two first round picks. In the 2022 season, despite missing multiple games, Jackson was more efficient passing and rushing than Rodgers, while also winning the same amount of games despite missing the final 6 regular season games. So, if the Giants are likely unwilling to deal their picks to Baltimore for a better Quarterback, what reason do they have to deal the same picks to Green Bay for a worse Quarterback?

Ultimately, the reason the Giants were backed into a corner is their own choices. For the past few seasons, the Giants had landed themselves draft picks high enough to replace Jones if they wanted. However, now that they had the option to release Jones, they have become too good to use those picks to draft his replacement. Due to the steep cost of replacing him through trade, the Giants faced an ultimate dilemma: Pay Jones above his market value, and keep the success you just saw from him, or take a risk replacing him and risk destroying all the success you just saw. For a team that was so far removed from their last playoff win, the choice is obvious - they just got a taste of playoff success that they hadn't had in over a decade, and now they want more. So why would they replace the man who gave them that taste to risk bringing in another Quarterback at a much higher cost who might not provide the same results?

Daniel Jones, in a home loss to the Philadelphia Eagles, 48-22, on December 11th, 2023.