Daniel Jones isn’t just a complementary piece in a Saquon Barkley-centric Giants offense anymore. Jones is carrying it himself.
“Daniel Jones is a baller,” wide receiver Richie James said Tuesday. “Daniel Jones is a dog. D-A-W-G. Dawg.”
Jones was the Giants’ best player in their Wild Card playoff road win over the Minnesota Vikings. In most cases, the quarterback has to be the best player to maximize an offense.
That’s how it is with the NFL’s top three scoring offenses led by the Chiefs’ Patrick Mahomes, the Bills’ Josh Allen and the Eagles’ Jalen Hurts.
That is what Jones has been in his last two starts for the Giants, scoring a combined 69 points against the Colts in the regular season and the Vikings in the playoffs.
And that is why, after Jones’ record-setting postseason debut, the price on his Giants contract extension is going up in the minds of some former NFL GMs.
One ex-GM told the Daily News on Tuesday that he expects Jones to command “between $35-38 million” per season on a multi-year contract extension after the Giants’ playoff run — something like three years, $110 million with $70 million guaranteed.
That $36.6 million annual average would price Jones ahead of the Vikings’ Kirk Cousins ($35 million), the Lions’ Jared Goff ($33.5 million) and the Titans’ Ryan Tannehill ($29.5 million) as comps.
“If he wins another game, it’s probably a four-year deal,” the ex-GM added, pushing it to something like four years, $145 million and $90 million guaranteed.
A second former NFL GM, however, scoffed at the idea of nearing $40 million annually for Jones. He suggested a two-year, $42 million bridge deal at $21 per year, or slightly more, based on the limited sample size and Jones’ benefit from being in Brian Daboll’s system.
“The Giants have to go to Jones and say it’s got to be a measured deal in order to help us,” the second ex-GM said. “If you need $40 million a year, we can’t do it.”
Multiple league sources have posited that Jones’ market outside New York may not be incredibly strong because his fit with this particular coaching staff and system is not optimal but not necessarily replicable.
On the other hand, one league source said: “If I’m Daniel’s agent, I now need more money than Kyler Murray.”
And a third former NFL general manager agreed that the existence of quarterback contracts like Murray’s five-year, $230.5 million deal with $160 million guaranteed in Arizona (at a $46.1 million per season) clearly helps Jones’ cause.
“There are a couple quarterback contracts out there that probably have his agent’s attention,” the third former GM said Tuesday. “Unless he really lays an egg against the Eagles, you’re paying him whether you like it or not.”
If comparing Jones to Murray sounds crazy, consider that Jones has won a playoff game and Murray hasn’t. Murray also initially had a homework clause included in his contract to make sure he studied, while Jones is a first-one-in, last-one-out guy.
As the third GM pointed out, too, if the Giants believe Jones is ascending, giving him $160 million guaranteed might look like a great deal in five years once the market is reset by Jacksonville with Trevor Lawrence, the Chargers with Justin Herbert, the Bengals with Joe Burrow and maybe the Ravens with Lamar Jackson.
None of this conversation is an overreaction to one good game.
Multiple league sources ballparked a possible Jones deal to the News last week as a three year, $100 million contract with about $60-75 million guaranteed, with the team likely using a transition or franchise tag as a placeholder for negotiations.
Then there was the possibility that Jones could increase that $33.3 million average annual value with a strong game against the Vikings. And he did that.
He became the first NFL quarterback in postseason history to throw for 300+ yards, run for 70+ yards and throw two TD passes in one game.
He made two plays that stood out as the clearest demonstration of his improvement: completions on the run to wide receiver Isaiah Hodgins for 32 yards and 19 yards, respectively, to set up the Giants’ two second-half touchdowns.
“He prepares so well,” Hodgins said of Jones. “He knows what coverage defenses are gonna be in before they’re in it.”
And earning the freedom to make those plays says the most of all about Jones’ growth.
Daboll coached Jones conservatively early this season and only gradually began to trust him more throughout the year. The coach said Tuesday, “what we did in Week 2 might be different than Week 15, but I’ve had confidence in Daniel since training camp.”
However, new GM Joe Schoen and Daboll declined Jones’ fifth-year option in the spring, and they dodged endorsing Jones definitively in the summer and early fall.
There were understandable business and football reasons for that. There was plenty of football on film from previous years that supported their tepid early support.
But Jones’ dynamic performance in Minnesota after an encouraging fourth season, most importantly, had ownership swooning as the Giants advanced.
And that’s where the money is.