As the start of NFL free agency on March 15 draws near, the New York Giants are faced with a couple of tough decisions. Specifically, New York must determine if and how it can retain both quarterback Daniel Jones and running back Saquon Barkley.
At first blush, keeping both seems reasonable. The Giants have an estimated $43.3 million in cap space, a playoff-caliber roster and a solid collection of draft picks—including an extra third-rounder—with which to reload other positions.
However, recent developments involving Jones' contract talks could force the Giants to pick between one of their two biggest stars before free agency begins. And should it come down to that, fans should brace themselves for Barkley's departure.
Why the Giants Have a Looming Decision
Given New York's salary capital, fitting Barkley and Jones into the financial plans seems doable. Barkley has a projected annual market value of $12.3 million, while Jones comes in at $26.2 million.
New York's issue stems from the fact that the quarterback appears unwilling to accept what might be considered fair market value. Jones recently changed agents—from CAA to Athletes First—and according to ProFootballTalk's Mike Florio, the switch is because he isn't willing to take what the Giants are offering:
"So what does Jones want? There are two possibilities. One, he's willing to do a deal for less than CAA was willing to accept. Two, he wants more than CAA was able to get. As one source explained it, it's the latter. Jones wants more than the Giants have offered. Possibly as much as $45 million per year, or more."
Is Jones worth $45-plus million? That's certainly debatable. The Duke product had a very good first year under rookie head coach Brian Daboll in 2022, but he hasn't established himself as an elite signal-caller.
At the same time, $45 million has become the going rate for a quality starter—Kyler Murray signed a deal worth $46.1 million annually last offseason, and he has yet to deliver a playoff win—and Jones has every right to maximize his earnings.
The contractual impasse at which Jones and the Giants appear to find themselves will likely lead to the franchise tag, which teams can begin applying on Tuesday. Using the non-exclusive franchise tag—which would allow another team to sign away Jones at the price of two first-round draft picks—would cost New York $32.4 million in 2023.