Keeping up with the Giants

With the sixth pick in the 2019 Draft, the New York Giants selected Daniel Jones, heir apparent to the most prolific quarterback in franchise history, ninth all-time in passing yardage and keeper of two Pete Rozelle trophies (as Super Bowl MVP), Eli Manning. Within three games, Jones was starting for the Giants and the media did not like what it saw.

Three years later, Jones still isn’t anyone’s favorite. He had serious rookie struggles in 2019, didn’t get anything resembling a sophomore bump in 2020 and “broke out” with a slightly below-average season in 2021. He is 12-25 as a starter and the Giants haven’t been in the playoffs since 2016 and have not won a playoff game since Super Bowl XLII.

Is Jones the reason? Hard to say. With the sixth overall pick, you’re no longer looking at quarterbacks who are expected to take the league by storm. But you should get a franchise guy as often as not. Jones isn’t exactly a bust. But he plays too safe and doesn’t move the offense well. When the Giants get near the goal line, no one really has that feeling that Jones will get them across somehow.

One annual deadline that doesn’t get a lot of press is “fifth-year” day, which takes place Monday, just after the draft. What this means is any player (not just a quarterback) drafted in the first round three years ago and playing under his initial four-year contract can be signed to a guaranteed fifth year for a single-season price that’s somewhat lower than that of a franchise player. This affects two quarterbacks this year – Jones and Arizona’s Kyler Murray. The third first-round quarterback from 2019 (Dwayne Haskins) didn’t stick with his initial team and is sadly no longer with us.

Today, the Giants apparently signaled that they would not pick up that option. Since they hold the 5th and 7th picks in the first round tonight, I’m not sure why they would make this announcement until the last possible minute. I don’t pretend to know everything about how these decisions are conveyed. How do these signals work? What does the Twitterverse say? Does Elon Musk have a take? He must. He’s everywhere else.

Since the Giants have, at backup, career journeyman Tyrod Taylor, a high-run quarterback with 11 years of experience (for high-run quarterbacks, this means they’re likely at the tail end of their careers), this probably means Jones will play out his contract and the next Giants starter at the position is not currently on the roster.

Will they draft a new quarterback tonight? The consensus is that there are no likely franchise quarterbacks available. I’m very enthused about Malik Willis, thinking his accuracy and footwork issues are curable. I am not enthused about any other quarterback. But the Giants’ staff, obviously, does this for a living and would have different ideas. With both the 5th and 7th pick, if there was a true franchise guy, they could have traded up. That doesn’t seem to be the case.

Most mocks I’ve seen indicate Willis is likely the first quarterback off the board and a team will likely have to trade into the low teens to get him. So if you see the Giants trade down in the first round, that might be what they have in mind. Teams get crazy about quarterbacks during the draft, though, so if someone is truly sold on Willis, they’ll be watching the teams that have a need and thinking about maneuvering ahead. That’s why it seems so strange that the option news on Jones is coming out now rather than tomorrow.

Playing 3D chess here, I think this means the Giants do not want a new quarterback and might want to draw a specific team into trading up to six for a quarterback so that they get the offensive lineman they want at seven. They are willing to start Jones this season and if he suddenly breaks out, franchise him in 2023 or give him the $35-$40 million per year on a longer deal that he’d get if he does break out. It’s a gamble. But if they lose this gamble, they will draft high in 2023 and there are more and better quarterback options. Or maybe they want Baker Mayfield. It’s surprising that no one else does.