INDIANAPOLIS — It keeps coming back to this with Daniel Jones and the Giants.
They will be together next season but if Jones is back only because he was prevented from leaving by the restrictions of the franchise tag it is going to greatly diminish the chances for the team to build on its 2022 success.
The point of all this is for the Giants to move forward and grow with Jones and that growth will be limited if he costs $32.4 million on the salary cap, a total that would be reduced by more than half if the Giants and Jones can come to a multiyear contract agreement.
“That’s something everybody realizes,” general manager Joe Schoen said Tuesday at the NFL Scouting Combine.
“If you have to franchise Daniel, I don’t think that’s best for the organization and I don’t think it’s best for Daniel, especially as we try to build the team around him and questions about receiver, other positions on the other side of the ball where we may need depth.
“It does hurt you a little bit in terms of the team-building process but we’re prepared if that’s the scenario we’re faced with. We have a Plan B and we’ll try to execute that as best we can.”
The Plan B scenario, if Jones returns on the tag, could have dire consequences for Saquon Barkley, the other half of the high-level negotiations currently underway.
Schoen reiterated that he wants both players back on multiyear deals. Jones will be tagged if the deal does not get done before March 7 — the deadline to tag players — but Barkley’s return is far less certain.
And, if Jones is tagged, the salary cap pool gets lowered and the likelihood Barkley comes back takes a hit.
“We’ll see if it gets to that,” Schoen said. “We’re hoping we don’t get to where it’s one or the other. It doesn’t have to be that way. If it did, we wouldn’t have contract offers out to both of ’em. It’s not necessarily one is getting tagged.
“Ideally that doesn’t happen and you get ’em both done, that’s gonna be better for the organization and I think it will be better for Daniel and I think it would be better for Saquon if we can get deals done without having to use the franchise tag.”
Schoen met with Jones’ new agents in-person here on Monday — “productive conversations” he said — and more talks were scheduled for Tuesday.
With the impending release of receiver Kenny Golladay on March 15, the Giants will add $6.7 million to their cap space to put them slightly more than $50 million under the cap.
If more than half of that has to go to Jones via the franchise tag, Schoen will be unable to delve too deeply into free agency to fill what he described as “several holes on both sides of the ball.”
Count wide receiver, depth on the interior of the defensive and offensive lines and inside linebacker as the positions with the most glaring needs.
“Yeah, it’s going to limit the resources you can use from outside the building,” Schoen said of what happens if Jones gets tagged.
“If you have players you like, it’s going to limit the price point or the tier of player you’re going to get. You’re going to have to draft and try to supplement the roster around him with young talent.”
Schoen would not get into any specifics about the numbers being floated about Jones’ contract — he declined to say if Jones’ camp asked for $45 million per year — and added that Jones’ change in representation — dropping CAA for Athletes First — had no effect on the negotiations.
“That was something personal that Daniel wanted to do,” Schoen said. “I didn’t really get into it.
“We have never had any conversations with CAA, they have no idea what value we thought, I have no idea what they would have asked.”
The Giants during the bye week in early November presented Barkley with an offer averaging $12.5 million for what is believed to be three years, an offer Barkley turned down.
Schoen praised Barkley’s agent, Kim Miale of Roc Nation Sports, but there is a divide that still needs to be narrowed.
“We haven’t totally bridged — we’re a little bit closer, there’s still a gap or we’d have him done,” Schoen said. “We’ll still work through that. We’ll see if we can bridge the gap here at some point.”
The Giants will extend themselves — to a point — if they have to for Jones but not for Barkley.
“You’ve got to look at production, durability, games played, production versus other comps throughout the league and that’s usually where they land from a financial standpoint,” Schoen said. “We’ve got to draw a line in the sand, like we’re not going any further.”
Schoen described himself as “cautiously optimistic” about getting deals done with Jones and Barkley, acknowledging the need to “go through hard times” in contract haggling.
“It’s got to be right for both parties,” Schoen said. “If it gets out of hand and it’s out of our comfort zone we have the tag, we can only tag one player, we’ll use that. If someone’s got to walk then that’s unfortunate but that’s a part of the business. We’re still building a team, that’s important to keep in mind.”