The Giants handed Daniel Jones a hefty new contract while RB Saquon Barkley was franchise tagged. Boardroom breaks down what this says about the market for both positions.
The objective was relatively clear for the New York Giants entering the 2022 season. It started with a regime change — GM Joe Schoen succeeded the infamous David Gettleman. Schoen was the assistant GM over in Buffalo and hired offensive coordinator Brian Daboll to be the head coach in an effort to bring some respectability back to the Blue.
Everyone knew what Saquon Barkley was capable of, particularly after winning Offensive Rookie of the Year in 2018, but injuries have kept him from reaching that level since. He got close in 2022, however, rushing for 1,307 yards (with 338 reception yards) and getting into the end zone 10 times. Both were top five at his position.
Despite being the catalyst for the team’s offense, one that lacked a true passing attack, Barkley got franchise-tagged at $10.9 million for the 2023 season — ninth among RBs and No. 200 among all NFL players (as of this writing).
Barkley was the well-oiled machine in Daboll’s offense this year. It’s good they keep him for another year, but the short-term commitment is more of an indictment of the market at the position. G-Men insider Ralph Vacchiano reported that they offered him something in the neighborhood of $12 million per year during their bye week, but he rejected it.
It’s justified. The Giants’ rush offense ranked fourth in the NFL for both rush yards per game and more than half their total touchdowns scored (40) were through the ground (21, also fourth). Quarterback Daniel Jones was a major part of all of that, too. But the pass offense landed short and ranked in the bottom 10 in yards per game (185.7) and touchdowns (17).
They didn’t have a true No. 1 WR option after a couple of failed tries with Kenny Golladay. Players stepped up, namely Darius Slayton, Richie James, and Isaiah Hodgins. But Barkley was still Jones’ favorite target among all pass-catchers. Perhaps that’s what causes us to say that it’s more about the market versus the talent when it comes to this conundrum the Giants and several other teams are dealing with in dishing out the dough.
Daniel Jones picked up a four-year, $160 million deal. He’s the seventh-highest-paid QB by average annual salary at $40 million. They doubled down on the homegrown pick — but we’ll see if it was the right homegrown pick they prioritized. Given how the market is going, it shouldn’t be much of a surprise. RB Tony Pollard went off this season and also got tagged. QB Derek Carr got cut from a talented Raiders team and landed four years, $150 million in New Orleans.
From a macro perspective, it’s a sign of the time. Micro-Giants level, it’s Schoen and Daboll’s first time sitting in the chairs calling the shots. Let’s weigh a couple of the pros and cons of their decisions.
Start with the fact that they have a QB who they can develop a level of continuity with. Not to mention, they have $18.9 million in cap space (10th-most in the NFL). Perhaps they can find a way to bring in a true WR1 for Jones.
Some notable free agent WRs:
- Jakobi Meyers
- JuJu Smith-Schuster
- Allen Lazard
- Darius Slayton*
- DJ Chark
- Paris Campbell
The obvious answer is that Saquon can negotiate with other teams and apply real pressure. If or when that happens, we’ll really get a sense of how much Schoen and the Giants value Saquon — beyond the RB — but the player who truly produced the most for the offense. On the other hand, they’ve got to prove something in the next three seasons fully committed to Daniel Jones, who has an out after the 2025 season.
“As we build the team and continue with our offseason plan, we’ll do what’s best for the team. And we’re still mapping that out,” Schoen said about tagging Barkley.
The Giants didn’t jump into the bare QB market for a reason. They don’t necessarily have to rush this process — they stunk under Gettlemen’s watch for years and needed to clean things up. Jones isn’t perfect but it’s what the market indicated. If it wasn’t going to be Lamar Jackson, were any other names so enticing to rush something that isn’t ready just yet?
One playoff win was remarkable considering where these guys were not so long ago. Tagging a player of Saquon’s caliber amid that remarkable season is risky and shows a level of distrust toward him being the franchise player, no matter who or what factors into it all.
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