EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – Before the first high-stakes contract negotiations of his career, Daniel Jones sought counsel from the person who could best comprehend his position: Eli Manning, his predecessor as the Giants' starting quarterback and someone familiar with navigating complex deals.
"I spoke to Eli before the process started and a little bit during," Jones said on a Zoom news conference today. "And he gave me some good advice. I think his message was just that things they'll work out how they're supposed to. One day, you're going to feel good about it. One day, not as good. But just to keep working. We had the goal the whole time to get it worked out."
And that they did. Just before yesterday's 4 p.m. deadline, the Giants and Jones agreed on a four-year contract.
"You're not going to get everything you want in a negotiation," general manager Joe Schoen said. "Rarely is that ever going to happen. I think that goes for both sides. There was give and take. People were standing firm on what was important for each side. At the end of the day, each side had to give a little bit. That's why it went down to the wire. We're happy we were able to get it done."
"I think it was always my goal to be back here and to be here long-term," Jones said. "I've really enjoyed being here. I think it's a special place. It's a special organization to be a part of. So, it was always my goal and my hope that we'd find a way to work it out and that they'd bring me back. I'm excited about that. I think you go through times where you're more confident, times where you're less confident. But it was always my goal and hope to be back."
Had the two sides failed to reach an accord, the Giants would have placed the franchise tag on Jones. Had that happened, Jones would have occupied substantially more of the Giants' 2023 salary cap than he will under the longer contract.
"I think it's better for the team," Jones said. "It gives us a little more flexibility, and that's an important component to it. I wanted to be here. I wanted to find a way to work it out so that it was good for both sides, and it worked. And it allowed us to have an opportunity to do what's best for us going forward. So, I think that was a key component to it. I think we did that."
With the quarterback secure, the Giants placed the franchise tag on running back Saquon Barkley. The moves ensure the Giants will have their two most important offensive players for the 2023 season. The players were linked, because they were scheduled to become free agents next week, they are indispensable members of the team, and their negotiations moved along parallel paths.
"Saquon, I've said it, he means a ton to me as a teammate, as a friend," Jones said. "And he means a ton to us as a player."
"I'm going to talk to Saquon today," Schoen said. "I talked to him yesterday before we put the franchise tag on him. Again, we've had deals out, whether it's the bye week or recently. We're going to continue to negotiate. We love Saquon. He's a good teammate. He's a captain. He's a hell of a player. So, right now, he's under the franchise tag. As we build the team and continue with our offseason plan, we'll do what's best for the team. We're still mapping that out.
"We'll see what happens with Saquon. The franchise number is just over $10 (million). If you extend him, and there's a signing bonus involved, you can free up more cap space."
The 2022 season was Jones' best since the Giants selected him sixth overall in the 2019 NFL Draft. Jones led the Giants to nine regular-season victories, their first postseason berth since 2016, and their first playoff win in 11 years, an NFC Wild Card triumph in Minnesota.
Jones is aware that greater expectations come with a big contract, but he insists not more pressure.
"I've always felt that responsibility," said Jones, who will turn 26 in May. "And playing this position, especially for a team like the New York Giants and this city, you have that responsibility. And I take that very seriously. It certainly doesn't change. I certainly do feel that, and it's my goal to earn that every day and in the offseason while we're preparing for the season and when we get to the season, I'm doing my best and preparing this team to win games and me to put us in a position to do that. Yeah, I take that responsibility very seriously."
Does signing Jones to a long and lucrative contract signal the Giants believe they can win a Super Bowl with him?
"That's the goal," Schoen said. "Everybody's goal is to win a Super Bowl. I think Daniel, he played well his rookie year. He played well for us this past year. I think the coaching staff has confidence in him. As an organization, we have confidence in him. We're going to continue to build the team around him. That's the ultimate goal."
Schoen said in his joint postseason news conference with coach Brian Daboll that he wanted Jones to return. But the road to an agreement was not without its bumps and detours.
"It started roughly," Schoen said, "I think it was three weeks ago today, when Athletes First, their group flew out here. We had a dinner initially. They were actually in the building Thursday, Friday, for a couple of days. We started our initial conversations then. And then we kind of went remote after that up until the Combine. So, we were in constant communication with them. I use that 'It's going to get worse before it gets better.' We started off, we were far apart. Then, just over the days, weeks, hours, we eventually got closer.
"It pretty much came all the way down to the finish line, I think. Literally, it was like 3:54 when the deal got done. And there was a lot of moving parts to it. But without getting into the details of the sticking points and whatnot, I thought for the most part, at the end of the day, we'd get a deal done. I said it all along that franchising him wasn't best for the franchise and wasn't best for Daniel. So, at the end of the day, I was pleased to get it done. It definitely went up to the wire."
In keeping with his reserved personality, Jones did not celebrate his new riches by throwing a loud party that ran into the early morning hours.
"I had dinner last night with some friends and my agents," he said. "Just grateful to have the opportunity to be back. I think it's similar to being drafted. It's an opportunity to play, but also an opportunity to go earn it and to prove it and continue to improve as a player and win a lot of football games. That's my goal, and I'm tremendously excited about the opportunity. But there's certainly a lot of work to do going forward, and I'm excited for that part of it, too."
In case you're wondering – "Yeah, I picked up the tab," Jones said.
A big contract won't change him.
View photos of Giants quarterback Daniel Jones throughout his NFL career.