INDIANAPOLIS – Joe Schoen's attitude on signing both Daniel Jones and Saquon Barkley remains crystal clear and unchanged.
"I would love to have them both back," Schoen said today during his news conference today at the NFL Scouting Combine. "They work well with each other. Their entire careers in the NFL, they've been together. I do think they complement each other well. We're trying to have productive conversations with both their representatives. The goal is to hopefully get something done.
"We've had productive conversations with both their representatives – Saquon going all the back to November. And we'll continue to do so. There's not priority on one or the other."
Those conversations are necessitated by the fact that Jones, the Giants' improving quarterback, and Barkley, their Pro Bowl running back, are about to become free agents. Schoen said he is "cautiously optimistic" the Giants will retain both players.
"You have to go through hard times before you come out the other end, better times in negotiations," he said. "So, we're trying to work through it. Obviously, we'd like to have them both back. They know how we feel about both of them. And again, we're still working through it."
If the Giants signed one of the two players before the deadline next Tuesday, they can secure the other by placing the franchise tag on him. Schoen didn't dispute the importance of signing one of the players before March 7.
"It's got to be right for both parties," he said. "Again, I say it all the time with you guys – if, then scenarios. We're going through those. So, if it gets out of hand and it's out of our comfort zone, we have the tag. We can only tag one player. We'll use that. If somebody's got to walk, then it's unfortunate. But that's a part of the business. We're still building a team. That's important to keep in mind.
"We're hoping that we don't get to where it's one or the other. It doesn't have to be that way. If it did, we wouldn't have contract offers out to both of them. So, it's not necessarily one's getting tagged. Ideally, that doesn't happen, and you get them both done. That's going to be better for the organization. And I think it'll be better for Daniel, and I think it'll be better for Saquon if we can get deals done without having to use the franchise tag."
Placing the tag on either player would not preclude the Giants to continue negotiating a multi-year contract. Jones' salary under the tag would be $32.4 million, which Schoen concedes would restrict his options to upgrade other positions.
"It does," he said. "That's something everybody realizes. If you have to franchise Daniel, I don't think that's best for the organization. I don't believe it's best for Daniel, especially as we try to build a team around him and questions about receiver and other positions on the other side of the ball where we may need depth. So, it does hurt you a little bit in terms of the team-building process. But we're prepared if that's a scenario that we're faced with, and we have a plan B. And we'll try to execute that the best we can."
Despite the contractual uncertainty, Schoen offered an unequivocal "no" when asked if he has any doubt that Jones will be the Giants' quarterback in 2023. "We're going to try to get Daniel done," he said. "We wouldn't be in this situation, negotiating with Daniel, if we didn't want him to be our quarterback."
Schoen added if Jones is not signed by the deadline, he will be tagged. That would not preclude the two sides from continuing to negotiate a multi-year deal that would sharply reduce the cap space Jones would absorb if he played under the $32.4 million tag salary.
"We have a lot of options," Schoen said. "…We've been in constant contact with his agents. We had productive conversations yesterday. We have some more scheduled today. So, we'll continue to communicate with them. Some of it was in person and then over the phone. Yesterday was in person. It'll be in person again today. We'll continue to hammer out, try to get closer to getting something done hopefully."
Schoen said Jones' recent change of agents from CAA to Athletes First has not affected the negotiations.
"That was something personal that Daniel wanted to do," Schoen said. "I didn't really get into it. We had never had any conversations with CAA. They had no idea what value we thought. We had no idea what value they would've asked. That was totally separate. We have a great relationship with CAA, a great relationship with Athletes First. We had just never even embarked on any type of negotiations, numbers, anything. That was just something that Daniel decided to do on his own, and once there was a separation, we started talking with Athletes First once that had been done."
Jones enjoyed the best of his four NFL seasons in 2022, when he led the Giants to a 9-6-1 record (he did not play in the season finale) and a wild card victory in Minnesota. Jones established a Giants single season record for qualifying quarterbacks by completing 67.2% of his passes and his passer rating of 92.5 passer rating was also a career high. He threw only five interceptions in 472 attempts, a NFL-best 1.1 percentage. In addition to throwing for 3,205 yards and 15 touchdowns, Jones finished second on the team with 708 rushing yards and seven touchdowns, single-season records for a Giants quarterback record.
"Daniel did have a great year," Schoen said. "And he'll be the first to tell you: There's still a lot of meat left on the bone and a lot of room left for improvement. And Dabs (coach Brian Daboll) will tell you that. The coaching staff will tell you that. He came a long way; he's still 25. I still think there's room for improvement as he continues to mature and be around the staff. I think the continuity with the staff, getting (offensive coordinator Mike) Kafka back. (Quarterbacks coach) Shea (Tierney) interviewed for a coordinator job (at Tampa Bay). But getting those guys back, our entire offensive staff will be back except for Tony Sparano Jr., the assistant O-line coach. But the same with the defense. Our defensive staff is coming back. I think continuity, year two, familiarity with the system, we'll be that much further ahead as we go into the offseason program. And I think everybody will benefit from that, especially Daniel."
Asked when he knew he wanted Jones to be the team's quarterback this year, Schoen said, "It was an ongoing process. We evaluated every game that he played all the way through the playoffs. I think we felt good at the end of the season that he's the guy that we'd like to bring back moving forward and be our guy."
Schoen would like to have Barkley lined up in the backfield next to Jones. The two sides had their first contract discussions during the Giants' bye week. After the season, Schoen said of those talks, "we were off on the value." Regarding that gap, Schoen said today, "We haven't totally bridged it. We're a little bit closer. There's still a gap or we'd have him done. We'll still work through that. And again, we're working with Roc Nation and Kim Miale, his agent. We have a great relationship with her, and I have had for a long time. We've had really good communication. She does a great job. We'll see if we can bridge the gap here at some point."
Last season, Barkley was selected to his second Pro Bowl and did not miss a game due to injury for the first time since his 2018 Rookie of the Year season. He was fourth in the NFL with 1,312 rushing yards and tied with Richie James for the team lead with 57 receptions. Barkley's 1,650 yards from scrimmage were the league's seventh-highest figure. In addition to his production, Barkley is a team captain, the Giants' nominee for the Walter Payton Man of the Year Award and one of their most popular players.
"You take all of that into account or you wouldn't approach the player on a contract extension," Schoen said. "So, Walter Payton Man of the Year, I love that about him. But you also got to look at production, durability, games played, production versus other comps through the league. And that's usually where they land from a financial standpoint. Again, we've got to draw a line in the sand like, 'We're not going any further. And if it goes past this, let's shift to plan B.' And hopefully we don't get to that. But we went through all those plans."
How close are the Giants to that line?
"I can't tell you that – then they'd know," Schoen said with a soft laugh. "We're going to try to bridge the gap."
With both Barkley and Jones.
View photos from Giants Media Day as GM Joe Schoen spoke to the media from the NFL Combine.