Giants must clear Daniel Jones, Saquon Barkley hurdles soon before focusing on others

© Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports
© Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports / © Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

Maybe it’s an innate trait possessed by all those who work their way up the executive ranks to become an NFL general manager. Eye for talent? Sure. Shrewd negotiator? Absolutely. Ability to speak a lot without actually saying anything? Of course.

It seems like all across the NFL do it. They’re exhaustively uninformative. That’s what makes the GiantsJoe Schoen a bit of an anomaly. He guards some information, sure, but he’s about as honest and candid as they come when meeting the media.

So when he says he’s “cautiously optimistic” about the chances of signing quarterback Daniel Jones and running back Saquon Barkley to long-term contract extensions, as he did Tuesday at the NFL Scouting Combine, that’s big.

Now, if Schoen can take that optimism across the finish line and get the two to put their names in ink? Well, the Giants would be 2-0 in 2023 before playing a game.

“We’ve had productive conversations with both of their representatives,” Schoen said. “The goal is to hopefully get something done.”

There really shouldn’t have been any doubt left, but if there was, Schoen erased it as it pertains to Jones’ immediate future. He’s returning to the Giants next year. Schoen had his concerns when he inherited Jones — justifiably so. It’s why he didn’t pick up his fifth-year option. Then Jones went and eradicated all of them with his 2022 season.

The 25-year-old went 9-6-1 as a starter, completed 67.2 percent of his passes, and threw for 3,205 yards with 15 touchdowns and five interceptions. Those numbers aren’t remarkable, but are more impressive than read considering the lack of talent around the quarterback. Jones also ran for 708 yards and seven scores.

The Giants believe they can win with Jones. They believe he can be great if you improve those around him. They want him here long term. If they can’t agree to a long-term extension, then Schoen said the Giants will slap him with the franchise tag to buy more time in working out a new deal.

But using the tag is a worst-case scenario. Schoen knows that. The hope is Jones can see it, too.

“It’s going to limit the resources that you can use from outside the building,” Schoen said. “It’s going to limit the price point or tier of player that you’re going to be able to get [unrestricted free agents].

“It’s definitely going to affect it from that standpoint. You’re going to have to draft and try to supplement the roster around him with young talent.”

The Giants are financially healthy at the moment. They have $46.87 million in salary cap space — fourth most in the NFL. They’ll get $6.7 million more when they release receiver Kenny Golladay (a source told SNY on Tuesday they would), and quite a bit more if they extend defensive end Leonard Williams ($32.26 million cap hit). That’s plenty to infuse this roster with talent.

Things take on a much more bleak outlook if the Giants are forced to tag Jones. The price in doing so is $32.4 million, and every penny is felt on the 2023 cap. Take that out of the Giants' pot and it’s hard to see them doing anything else of significance considering they still need to pay their draft class.

That means no addressing of the offensive line ... adding of a receiver ... fixing the linebacking position ... adding a cornerback ... defensive line depth.

But if the Giants are able to extend Jones with a five-year contract worth between $35 and $37 million annually, Schoen can space out his cap hit so the Giants maintain flexibility this offseason. They won’t just retain Jones, but build out the roster around him. It’s a similar (although less extreme) situation with Barkley, whose tag would be $10.1 million.

“We’re going to keep the negotiations between the two parties,” Schoen said. “I think it’s best to do it that way.”

Schoen did say there’s been progress in bridging the gap between what the Giants are willing to pay Jones and Barkley, compared to what the two are willing to accept. The Giants and Barkley had been far apart. Barkley wanted near $16 million at the bye week while the Giants were closer to $12 million. There’s still a ways to go, but the fact the two are at least inching closer is legitimate progress. Schoen said there is a walk-away number with Barkley as the Giants don’t want to invest too much in a position that’s been devalued by most in recent years.

Basically, the Giants want Barkley back, but are aware they can get similar production from a second- or third-round pick, pay them significantly less, and use the money not tied up to the running back position to round out the roster elsewhere.

A report surfaced recently that Jones wanted $45 million per year. As SNY reported at the time: Jones has made no such demands. He’ll likely ask for north of $40 million annually, but the player always starts high with the team low in negotiations. Eventually they find a middle ground.

The key for the Giants is making sure they stake that middle ground soon. The moment Schoen and the Giants can clear this hurdle they can begin to focus on others.

“We would like to have them both back,” Schoen said. “They know how we feel about both of them.”

Schoen admitted in Indy he’s still getting used to his new role as a general manager. The combine isn’t anything new. He’s been coming to this for quite some time. But his prior obligations focused strictly on player evaluation. That’s not the case anymore.

Sure, Schoen is still evaluating, but he’s also meeting, quite a bit, with agents of players he wants to pursue and those he wants to keep.

On the schedule this week: Some time with the representatives for both Barkley and Jones.

Right now, Schoen is cautiously optimistic.

The hope is that he’s quite a bit more by the time he flies back to New Jersey.