Why Giants didn't pick up Daniel Jones' fifth-year option, and what comes next

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Daniel Jones jogs out in white color rush uniform vs. Bucs
Daniel Jones jogs out in white color rush uniform vs. Bucs

The Giants made it official: Daniel Jones is going to have to earn his spot on the roster for 2023.

As they were always expected to do, the team declined to exercise the fifth-year option in their starting quarterback’s contract, passing on the chance to keep him locked up for another year for $22.3 million guaranteed. He now will play this coming season knowing he is scheduled to be a free agent next March, though he isn’t exactly guaranteed to be sent free.

Meanwhile, the Giants did exercise the fifth-year option on their other 2019 first-round pick – defensive tackle Dexter Lawrence. He is now signed through the 2023 season, when he is guaranteed to be paid about $10.6 million.

The decision on Jones has nothing to do with the Giants’ faith in him. From ownership on down, they have continually expressed their belief, both publicly and privately, that they think he is their long-term answer at quarterback. Even new GM Joe Schoen and new head coach Brian Daboll have made it clear they think Jones is the real deal.

But the 24-year-old quarterback’s three-year NFL career has been mostly marked by injuries and inconsistency – so much so that the Giants are leery of making a long-term investment in him. By declining the option, they keep their own options open. If they decide he is the right man for the franchise quarterback job, they can use the "franchise tag" on him for about $30 million, or try to sign him to a lucrative, long-term deal.

And if they decide he’s not, they can simply cut him loose and draft his replacement in 2023. They already have veteran backup Tyrod Taylor under contract through next season, just in case he needs to help bring a rookie quarterback along.

New York Giants quarterback Daniel Jones (8) looks to throw in the first half. The Giants defeat the Eagles, 13-7, at MetLife Stadium on Sunday, Nov. 28, 2021, in East Rutherford. Nyg Vs Phi
New York Giants quarterback Daniel Jones (8) looks to throw in the first half. The Giants defeat the Eagles, 13-7, at MetLife Stadium on Sunday, Nov. 28, 2021, in East Rutherford. Nyg Vs Phi

But that’s really their Plan B. Plan A for the Giants is already underway – giving him a better coaching staff, a better offense, a better offensive line, and hopefully a better team around him. They are firmly convinced that his struggles so far have been mostly about being in a terrible situation.

"We’ve done everything possible to screw this kid up since he’s been here," Giants co-owner John Mara said back in January. "We keep changing coaches, keep changing offensive coordinators, keep changing offensive line coaches.

"Let’s bring in the right group of coaches now, give him some continuity, try to rebuild the offensive line and try to make an intelligent evaluation of whether he can be the franchise quarterback or not."

They apparently have already made a positive evaluation of Lawrence, the 6-4, 342-pounder the Giants took 17th overall in 2019 – 11 picks after they choose Jones. Lawrence has been a solid, but unspectacular player through his first three seasons. He’s played well against the run, but never provided the pass rush they hoped he would. He has been durable, though, missing only one game so far in his career.

His 2023 salary of $10.6 million would currently make him the 16th highest-paid defensive tackle in the NFL. That seems a bit high, but he is still only 24 years old and the Giants think he might benefit from being the rock in the middle of what is expected to be a very aggressive defense under new coordinator Don "Wink" Martindale.