If Giants quarterback Daniel Jones beats the Minnesota Vikings in a road playoff game on Sunday, he could go from Danny Dimes to Danny Dollars.
Jones played well enough in the first three quarters of the season to warrant being transition tagged at minimum for the 2023 season. Then he played well enough down the stretch to start the conversation about a multi-year extension.
So if he invades U.S. Bank Stadium to get the Giants’ first playoff win since 2011, Jones’ price could go up — or at least he should secure more leverage in negotiations toward that end.
Co-owner John Mara doubled down on his belief in Jones last January when he fired GM Dave Gettleman and coach Joe Judge to hire Joe Schoen and Brian Daboll.
Jones, 25, responded by checking the three most important boxes to prove he is a franchise quarterback this season:
He cut down his turnovers to eight in 16 games while scoring 22 touchdowns. He won nine of 16 starts, matching his total for the past two seasons combined. And he stayed healthy.
Now the questions are: 1) What’s he worth to the Giants and 2) What market do the Giants envision for him if he’s available to sign elsewhere?
The most prudent plan from the Giants’ perspective, at the moment, would be to place the transition tag on their fourth-year quarterback when that window opens on Feb. 21.
This would tag him with a one-year contract worth approximately $30.4 million for the 2023 season, per Overthecap.com, or $2 million cheaper than the projected $32.4 million franchise tag.
The transition tag then would serve as the baseline of negotiations on a multi-year deal, or it could become Jones’ 2023 salary if they didn’t come to a longer agreement.
The risk of the transition tag is it would allow another team to sign Jones away with no compensation going back to the Giants if Schoen didn’t match the offer and its financial structure.
There is no evidence of a rabid free agent market for Jones yet. There is also doubt about whether Jones would leave New York since he finally might have the offensive coaching and stability to maximize his potential.
That is why winning a road playoff game could alter the financial conversation.
A standout performance in Minnesota theoretically could tip the scales toward the Giants using the stronger, non-exclusive franchise tag at around $32.4 million, and commanding two first-round picks back if Jones signed elsewhere.
That would create a higher negotiating starting point for Jones’ representatives and may bring the sides closer to a contract that made both happy: something like a three-year, $100 million contract with somewhere between $60-75 million guaranteed.
That would average between $33.3 million per season, front-load guarantees into the first two years, and give Jones the chance to cash in at a higher number two years later before the 2025 season.
The Giants do have the option to use their tag on Saquon Barkley for around $10.1 million in 2023. But it makes more sense for them to create cost certainty and protect the asset at the more important and expensive position of quarterback.
They’ve also already discussed a possible multi-year extension with Barkley’s camp, while no Jones negotiations have been made public to date.
Outside factors matter to Jones’ value, too.
Geno Smith’s impending free agent extension with the Seattle Seahawks might create a floor for the younger Jones in his Giants negotiations, even though Smith threw 30 TD passes to Jones’ 15.
Jones’ camp also might point to QBs who already have been paid as evidence of why Jones is worth more.
For example, the Raiders’ Derek Carr ($40.4 million average annual value), the Cowboys’ Dak Prescott ($40 million), the Vikings’ Kirk Cousins ($35 million) and the Commanders’ Carson Wentz ($32 million) have a combined career playoff record of 2-8.
So if Jones outplays Cousins and takes the Giants deeper into the playoffs, would he really be worth less than $35 million per year?
Granted, Jones was only 21st among NFL quarterbacks in touchdown passes, tied at 15 with the Atlanta Falcons’ Marcus Mariota, who did it in 13 starters. He scored TDs on only 3.2% of his throws, which ranks 28th in the 32-team NFL.
On the other hand, Jones finished fifth in QBs rushing yards (708 in 16 games) and fourth in QB rushing TDs (seven). His rush yards weren’t too behind Eagles MVP candidate Jalen Hurts (760 in 15 games), and his rush TDs tied the Bills’ Josh Allen.
Jones hasn’t just thrived in an NFL that is evolving in favor of the dual-threat quarterback; he has helped to lead and create that trend.
He made statements with a second-half surge to beat the Packers in London in Week 5; with a dominant Week 7 victory in Jacksonville (202 yards passing, 107 yards rushing, plus a TD both ways); and with a postseason berth for a starving franchise.
So he’s already made a convincing argument to be the Giants’ starting QB for 2023 and to start conversations about more.
Now he can improve his position with a landmark postseason win.