PHOENIX – Three weeks ago, Daniel Jones agreed to a new four-year contract. The Giants were never in danger of losing their quarterback, but when he signed, it was the seminal event of the offseason for the franchise – and team president John Mara.
"I'm very pleased," Mara said at the NFL Annual Meeting here. "It's the type of individual you want to represent your franchise. He had a terrific year last year. He's young. And I think if we put the right pieces around him, how high he could climb. So, I was very pleased about that."
Mara believes with Jones leading the offense, the Giants can climb all the way to the Super Bowl.
"We've very confident in that," he said. "Again, we've got to put the right pieces around him. He can't do it all by himself. But I think he showed how good a quarterback he could be this year. And if we can continue to improve our roster, I think there's no limit as to how well he can play. He has the type of mentality you want, too. He works hard. He's a great leader. Players really gravitate toward him. So, he's exactly what you want."
Jones, who turns 26 in May, had his finest season in 2022, his fourth since the Giants selected him sixth overall in the 2019 NFL Draft. He started a career-high 16 regular-season games and led the Giants to their first postseason berth since 2016, including a wild card playoff victory in Minnesota that was their first postseason triumph since 2011.
Jones completed a Giants-record 67.2% of his passes, finished with 3,205 passing yards and a 92.5 passer rating, both career highs, and led the NFL and set a franchise record by throwing an interception on just 1.1% of his passes (five in 472 throws).
At what point in the season did Mara know he wanted Jones for the long haul?
"I had a lot of confidence that he was our guy," Mara said. "We obviously made the decision not to exercise the fifth-year option (last year). I couldn't have been more pleased that he played as well as he did. I think it became pretty apparent, by midseason anyway, that he was going to be the guy. You could just see he was playing with more confidence. I think he believed in the offensive system that we had there. And just watching the way the players reacted to him, too, gave us all a lot of confidence that he was the guy."
For Jones, it was the perfect prelude to free agency. If necessary, the Giants would have placed the franchise tag on him. But he received the multi-year contract both sides preferred.
"I spoke to him as the negotiations first started, and I spoke to him I believe the day he first signed," Mara said. "I emphasized to him how much we wanted him here - wanted him to be a Giant – and how I felt it was in his best interest to sign the deal and stay here. We've finally going to give you some continuity, which we haven't been able to do since we drafted you. And we have a chance to build this roster now and be a successful team, and we want you to be a part of it. It was a good conversation. And I was very pleased, as I said before, that he ended up signing the deal."
View photos of Giants quarterback Daniel Jones throughout his NFL career.
Mara and general manager Joe Schoen discussed numerous Giants-related subjects in back-to-back 15-minute news conferences Monday. A sampling…
*The Giants' most important acquisition is arguably tight end Darren Waller, a former Pro Bowler who caught 107 passes in 2020, his last fully healthy season. Schoen sent a third-round draft choice to Las Vegas for Waller.
"I've known (Raiders general manager) David Ziegler for a long time, so we had been in contact at Senior Bowl," Schoen said. "And at the Combine, we just had some general conversations like, 'Hey, anybody on your team that may be available?' Just had those general conversations with all the GMs at the combine. That's part of it. And Waller was a name that came up that we were interested in, and we continued those talks when we came back. After doing a little bit of research and coming to an agreement on his value, we went ahead and pulled the trigger."
Injuries limited Waller to 20 games the last two seasons, including nine in 2022.
"We did a lot of research on that as well," Schoen said. "Our training staff was the Ed Block training staff of the year this year. Our soft tissue injuries were down over 200 percent if you take out a couple of players that had multiple soft tissues, we were in really good shape. The soft tissue stuff, I have a lot of confidence in the training staff, the strength staff, the sports science. Dabs spends a lot of time with those groups of people, as well as myself, mapping out the practice schedule, training camp, how we're going to do things at the start and end of the season. We felt comfortable with the information that we had and the staff that we have in place to get him on the field and keep him healthy."
*After his finest NFL season, safety Julian Love signed with the Seattle Seahawks as a free agent. Love led the Giants with 116 tackles and was a defensive captain.
"It was very difficult (to lose him)," Mara said. "There's guys that you lose every year in this business. It's just part of the business. But I remember when Dalvin Tomlinson left, how I felt about that. Julian, I feel the same way. Nick Gates - guys that you really have personal feelings for and are good people and who are good locker room guys. You hate to see them go, but you can't keep everybody.
"I thought we'd be able to retain him, but it didn't work out that way. And I'm sorry about that, because he really is a quality young man."
*Jon Feliciano or Gates was expected to be the starting center this year. But the former signed with the San Francisco 49ers, while the latter joined division rival Washington. But Schoen said the Giants have in-house options for the middle of the O-line.
"We had contingency plans in place," Schoen said. "We claimed Jack Anderson; he was with us in Buffalo. He does good work at center. Ben Bredeson is a guy that we feel very comfortable with playing center. And then Shane Lemieux was playing it as well last year before the (toe) injury.
"So, we'll have some guys in there that will battle it out as well. We still have the draft. We still have some sufficient guys on the street that we can consider as well. We don't play until September. We're in camp until August. Guy may be cut post-camp. There could be cap casualties. So, we'll be patient. We'll continue to look. We have confidence in Jack Anderson, Ben Bredeson and Shane that they can snap the ball and play center for us."
*Mara said he "definitely" expects defensive lineman Leonard Williams to be on the 2023 roster. Williams carries a team-high $32 million cap him.
"I think Leonard's been a terrific player for us, and he's been terrific off the field," Mara said. "And he's been a really good guy. In terms of working out the cap numbers, that's up to Joe."
And Joe said…
"If his cap number is high, his cash, if he doesn't miss any games, I don't think it's out of whack. We'll try to figure it out. But to go to one of your better players and say, 'Take a pay cut,' and you don't have any leverage, we're probably not going to. We like Leonard. We haven't had any conversations with him. I know he made that comment (about taking a pay cut). We kind of joke about it, but we haven't approached him about anything."
*Schoen has talked to the agents for Pro Bowl defensive lineman Dexter Lawrence, who is entering the final year of his contract.
"We've had good conversations with the representatives," Schoen said. "Probably Friday was the last time we were in contact with him. We're in negotiations. And we'll see if we can get something done."
View photos of every move made by the Giants during the 2023 offseason.