New York Giants quarterback Daniel Jones and running back Saquon Barkley are arguably two of the most important and biggest free-agent decisions the team will have to make this offseason.
Both will not only be unrestricted free agents, but will also benefit from an overall successful season.
Barkley has always been open about his desire to be a giant for life.
“I’ve been vocal about how I feel and where I want to be,” Barkley said after the game. “It’s out of my control, I wanted to show the Giants that the guy they drafted is still here. I hope I did that.”
Barkley hit a new career high in rushing yardage in his first healthy season since his rookie campaign. But with his accomplishments will likely come a hefty price tag that the Giants may not be willing to invest in as they need to update the roster to better compete with the Eagles and the rest of the NFC East in future seasons be able.
The Giants reportedly held preliminary talks with Barkley’s representatives during bye week in what is believed to be a exploratory process. However, due to their 2022 cap situation, the Giants couldn’t renew Barkley because any signing bonus money agreed in the deal would have narrowed their razor-thin 2022 cap space.
“Everyone knows I’d love to be a giant for life, but I really can’t answer that — it’s out of my control,” Barkley said. “Sometime this week I’m going to have a chat with my agent Kim (Miale) and see what’s up.”
Jones, cautious about his future, continued that approach after the game.
“I think we’ll deal with that later,” he said when asked if he wants to remain a giant. “It’s still very fresh at this point. This season. this loss. It will take time to regroup and think about how to proceed.”
Jones, of course, hadn’t picked up his option year in his rookie deal, which, if it had, would have guaranteed his return next season. The rationale at the time made sense: He’d had three shaky years as a starter, and there was no guarantee he’d thrive under noted quarterback whisperer Brian Daboll, who was hired as the team’s head coach.
Perhaps also taking into account that the expectations for the Giants in their first season under Daboll were so low that the Giants might have the option of picking a quarterback in the spring draft.
But the team’s surprise game that got them into the divisional round of the playoffs changed that. The Giants will move 26th in the first round in April, and by then all of the top franchise quarterbacks should long since have become the quarterback-needier ones teams have gone.
Speaking of which, Jones will also have options as he tests the market, as a team not particularly keen on starting over with a rookie could try to outbid the Giants for their quarterback if Jones hits the free hand.
Jones said he has nothing but love and respect for the Giants organization and opined that he’s made strides in his game this season.
“I think I’ve improved every week. I thought I was consistent throughout the year. There are certainly things I like to have back, especially tonight. I think there are some things I will go back and try to clean up, improve and grow as a player. I thought overall I did that. I’ve grown and improved over the year and I’ll keep trying.”
Whether that means he stays with the team to continue his upward trajectory is another story. “We will cross this bridge when we get there,” he repeated.
The Giants can apply the franchise tag to either one if negotiations stall. The projected cost for the Jones franchise is $32.455 million, while the projected cost for the Barkley franchise would be $10.1 million. Therefore, it would be appropriate for the Giants to finish off Jones first and then work on Barkley’s deal so they don’t choke on their salary cap once free agency begins in mid-March.
Regarding Jones, the Giants could also opt for the transition tag, which would cost them $30.402 million. However, due to the $2 million difference and the fact that if Jones were to sign with another team while franchise was tagged, it would give the Giants two additional first-round picks, the transition tag is unlikely .