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2024 NFL Combine

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Takeaways: GM Joe Schoen talks draft & free agency

The draft is the main focus of the NFL Scouting Combine, but it's far from the only one.

It's a convention for gathering information with the start of the new league year – and thus free agency – just two weeks away. Joe Schoen, who is entering his third season as general manager of the New York Giants, met with the media to talk about state of the roster.

Here's what you need to know:

🏈 Running back Saquon Barkley and safety Xavier McKinney are among the Giants' list of pending free agents, and Schoen expressed his desire to have both back. The plan all along has been to meet with their representatives this week in Indianapolis. "So, those conversations will take place this week, and we'll see if we can get something done."

🏈 The franchise tag is not off the table for Barkley. "We don't want to do it. In a perfect world, we don't want to do that again." The deadline is March 5.

🏈 Schoen said McKinney's agent, David Mulugheta, will get in here on Friday. "We have a meeting planned with him. I've had really good talks with Xavier over the last couple of weeks, but talks have not begun with that. I know there was something out there that maybe they'd began, conversations with a contract extension, but we haven't had any talks other than that we're going to get to the Combine, think about where you guys see the value, we're going to have our comps and then we can start from there. Xavier is another player that we'd like to have back. He's 24 years old, he was a captain, played 100 percent of the snaps. We think a lot of X and look forward to getting to the negotiation period here later this week."

🏈 Quarterback Daniel Jones, who suffered a torn ACL on Nov. 5, has been throwing for "about two weeks" from a stationary position. "He's not dropping back or doing any of that stuff," but he is on track. "He's doing everything he can to get back. We're optimistic about where he is. There's some talk in the spring that he may be able to go through whether it's seven-on-seven or individual, throwing routes on air, that he'll be able to do some of that stuff. We probably won't expose him to team activities. Every patient responds differently to surgery, so, knock on wood, we haven't had any setbacks. He hasn't had any setbacks. If he continues on that pace, he should be ready for the start of training camp."

🏈 Schoen has "faith" in Jones as their starting quarterback.

🏈 Jones "understands" the Giants need to add a quarterback to the roster. "It can be through free agency, and it doesn't preclude us from doing it in the draft as well."

🏈 The roster could look "a lot different" in three weeks from now based on what they do in free agency.

🏈 There are "good names" in the free agent running back market this offseason. "It's a little bit of a saturated market. There are some guys at different ages that have had success, there's some older guys that have had some success. So, it's a diverse group."

🏈 Schoen thinks "the world" of Barkley and that he can still play. "My value for Saquon really hasn't changed. Unfortunately, throughout the process, starting back in November of 2022, we weren't able to come to an agreement in terms of where we both thought a deal made sense. So, we'll circle back again. He has a new agent, Ed Berry, who we have a really good relationship with, with CAA. Really good guy and does a great job. Look forward to sitting down and having conversations with him. I think we've all grown, Saquon, myself, the organization, through the last 12, 13, 14 months. Saquon may be in a different place now than he was then in terms of understanding the market and the business side of it. I'm looking forward to having those conversations with him."

🏈 The increase of $30+ million to the salary cap was a "pleasant surprise." They will recalibrate and see if it alters their plans.

🏈 Barkley's presence in the locker room is "baked into" his contract negotiations.

🏈 It's a "good quarterback draft" and "not just at the top." Schoen said there are mid-level players who will be "good number twos. There are some guys that can be number threes in the draft. So yeah, I mean, I think it's a solid draft all over."

🏈 The Giants added assistant head coach duties to title of offensive coordinator Mike Kafka this offseason, one in which included another round of interviews for a head coach job. Schoen said he is "in demand" and "an asset around the building" as they "are going to continue to develop him as a head coach."

🏈 Schoen addressed listening in on the coaches' headset for four games during the season. "So, it's something I've wanted to do for quite some time. We were at Washington, and I can show you guys sometimes but where they put us, it's not a good sideline. It's not a great spot to watch the game. So, I went and did it and it was amazing. Just the communication of the coaches from an evaluation standpoint when I talk to (President and Chief Executive Officer) John Mara after the game or my personnel staff, I can say 'yeah, player X screwed that up' or 'yeah, we called this but this happened' or 'the safety was over and he was supposed to be that way' or whatever it may be. You just have an intimate knowledge of what went on and why during the game. … I'm superstitious, so we won. We beat Washington, and then we won the next week, and then we won the next week and then we lost against New Orleans, and I was out of there. Being superstitious, that's why I was in their multiple games. I thoroughly enjoyed it. I also like sitting with my staff, but I'm not the only GM that's ever done that, and again, from an evaluation standpoint, it was really beneficial, so that was the reason behind that."

🏈 An Indiana native, Schoen started his press conference by reflecting on his journey and thanking his staff. "It's always fun for me to come back where I'm from and just to think that 23 years ago, I drove over here and had a dinner with (Bills General Manager) Brandon Beane, which eventually led to me getting into the NFL. So, exciting time to be here as we go onto 2024. I'd be remiss if I didn't thank my staff. There's a lot that goes into preparing for the Combine, whether it's logistics, getting us to the airport, the hotels and all that stuff, so the staff did a fabulous job. I'd also like to mention (President and Director) Jeff Foster with NIC (National Invitational Camp) and the job he does putting this event together. He does a phenomenal job. If you guys understood half of the stuff he has to go through to get all these players here, the medical, the hotels, the flights… They do a phenomenal job for us."

View the players set to become free agents when the new league year begins on March 13.

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