Daniel Jones changed the arc of his career this season with an all-around display that ranged from efficient to tough and even reached dazzling sometimes. That bugaboo of turnovers that plagued him? Handled. A playoff game won? Done.
Does that mean Jones is the Giants' answer at quarterback going forward? We’ll see. He says he wants to be back and the Giants say they want him guiding the team’s next steps, too. But free agency means anything is possible, and there will be QB-needy teams who might be willing to pay for Jones’ talents.
Jones has known only Big Blue since the Giants drafted him sixth overall in 2019. At the time, picking Jones that high sparked debate, and his early career was uneven. After a terrific 2022, he’s hitting free agency at an ideal career moment. It’s decision time about the most important single position in any sport.
Should the Giants keep Jones or let him walk?
The case to keep him
Peak Danny Dimes is easy to dream on. Roll the film on the Giants’ 31-24 victory over the Minnesota Vikings in the Wild Card Round and try to keep your jaw from dropping. In that game, Jones was 24-of-35 for 301 yards and two touchdowns and also ran for 78 yards on 17 carries. He was the first QB in NFL history to have 300-plus yards passing, two TD throws and 75-plus yards rushing in a playoff game. Ever.
That playoff victory was the first for the Giants since the 2011 season.
It was obvious that Jones thrived in his first season working with head coach Brian Daboll and offensive coordinator Mike Kafka. And, as the season went on, more of the offense was turned over to Jones, making him into more of a playmaker than a game manager.
Jones started a career-high 16 games. If the Giants had been playing for anything the last week of the season, he would’ve played 17 games, but they had already sewn up the No. 6 seed in the playoffs.
Jones was once a turnover liability, but he had the best interception percentage (1.1 percent) in the NFL and also set a Giants franchise mark by completing 67.2 percent of his passes. He threw 15 touchdown passes against five picks and had a career-best 92.5 passer rating. He set records for a Giants quarterback by running for 708 yards and seven TDs, adding another dimension to the offense with his legs.
He also authored five game-winning drives and four comebacks.
Jones did all of that while under tons of pressure – Jones was sacked 44 times, fifth-most in the NFL – and while throwing to a less-than-elite corps of receivers. Imagine what might happen if the Giants bring back Jones and give him a No. 1 pass catcher? Jalen Hurts certainly got a boost when A.J. Brown landed in Philadelphia.
The case to let him go
This might not be fair, but the Giants are 22-33-1 when Jones plays, including the playoffs, during his career. It was Giants legend Bill Parcells who coined the phrase, “You are what your record says you are.” Of course, the Giants now seem to have the right coach in place as well as more significant talent around an improved Jones on the roster than at any other point in his tenure.
Still, no one would say that Jones is the next coming of Aaron Rodgers, Patrick Mahomes or Joe Burrow. Twenty quarterbacks threw more TD passes than Jones this season, including Andy Dalton and Davis Mills. While Jones enjoyed a career-best passer rating, it ranked only 14th in the NFL. His touchdown percentage was just 3.2 percent, tied for 28th in the league with Mac Jones and ahead of only four quarterbacks.
Danny Dimes got little done against the Eagles in the Divisional Round, completing 15 of 27 passes (55.6 percent) for just 135 yards and an interception. He also fumbled once and was sacked five times. Is he more likely to be low-end Jones against big-time teams?
Since the Giants made the playoffs, they won’t have a high enough draft pick to take one of the elite QB prospects, so they’d have to start over with someone else if they don’t retain Jones.
Right now, Tom Brady, Lamar Jackson, Geno Smith and Jimmy Garoppolo are among the potential options on the QB market. Derek Carr figures to be traded, but why give up player or pick assets for him when there are other choices, including keeping Jones?
Parse this however you want: “We’re happy Daniel’s going to be here,” Giants GM Joe Schoen said on Monday. Then he followed up by saying, “Hopefully, we’re going to get something done with his representatives. That would be the goal, to build the team around him where he could lead us to win the Super Bowl.”
Weirdly, both Schoen and Daboll used some semblance of the phrase, “Daniel’s done everything we’ve asked him to do.” Kind of an under-enthusiastic compliment, eh?
Over the past few days, both Jones and the Giants invoked the “business” side of the sport, which suggests there will be some haggling. Jones played well this season and definitely earned this looming payday, though the sides will have to figure out an agreeable point on his value.
The Giants shouldn’t be in the kind of cap hell they were last year, so they can add players even after signing Jones. It’s reasonable to believe Jones can make another leap forward next year since he’s likely to have a better group of receivers to target.
He’ll also likely have some continuity -- a rarity in his career. Daboll is the third different head coach Jones has worked with and Kafka is the fourth different offensive coordinator. Jones just completed his fourth year in the league. If Kafka does not get a head coaching gig, that means Jones will be working another year under a play-caller who helped him to his best NFL season. If Kafka leaves, well, Daboll’s still going to be there, looking to push deeper into the playoffs.
Keeping Jones just makes too much sense. It worked this year. With some more playmakers around him, maybe it works even better going forward.