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Quotes: GM Joe Schoen talks from NFL Combine

How's everybody doing? Always good to be back in the great state of Indiana here at the Combine. 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.

As we move into 2024, it's the first chance to get around a lot of these players that we haven't been around. It's important for us. The medical at the Combine is obviously very important for us, getting around the players in terms of interviews, the workouts… It's a great opportunity for us to really get to start to know these kids and to develop our plan going into 2024.

I know you guys are going to have some questions about upcoming free agents on our roster. We have (running back) Saquon Barkley, which we're going to talk to his representatives this week. There's nothing new on that front. The conversation, the plan all along, was to meet here in Indy and have those discussions about how we're going to move forward with him. He's a guy we'd like to have back. So, those conversations will take place this week, and we'll see if we can get something done with him.

And then (safety) Xavier McKinney, the same boat. His 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.

So, with that, I'll open it up to any questions.

Q: Have you talked to (quarterback) Daniel (Jones) about what your plans might be at quarterback in terms of adding somebody potentially? Will he be sort of in the loop at all in that?

A: Daniel's been in there every day. He's been working hard. We've had good conversations, and he understands where we are. He understands that we're going to need to add a quarterback. He's coming off an injury. (Quarterback) Tommy DeVito is under contract and Daniel, so we'll bring in either a veteran quarterback through free agency—(quarterback) Tyrod (Taylor) is in the mix there, too. We're going to talk to Tyrod's representatives this week, and Tyrod's a true pro. He has been really good for not only Daniel but Tommy DeVito and his progress throughout the year. He's a true pro. So, we'll address the position. Again, it can be through free agency, and it doesn't preclude us from doing it in the Draft as well.

Q: Do you have a better indication at this point with Daniel with his progress of when he's going to be back? I know you said you can't count on—

A: Yeah, so, he actually started throwing. Yeah, he actually started throwing. He's been throwing for about two weeks stationary. Now, he's not dropping back or doing any of that stuff. So, 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.

Q: What is your faith in Daniel?

A: I have faith in Daniel.

Q: I mean, you signed him—

A: I have faith in Daniel as our starting quarterback.

Q: Is the bar for a starting quarterback if he can get you to a Super Bowl and win it? And if that's the bar, is that still the bar you have for Daniel?

A: Say that again.

Q: Is the bar for your starting quarterback if he can get you to a Super Bowl—

A: Yeah, that's the ultimate goal for everybody, to win a Super Bowl. So, we want to win a Super Bowl. It's not one position; you've got to build a good team. You've got to have surrounding parts. There's a lot of good quarterbacks that haven't won Super Bowls. So, you've got to have a good team. It's not just the quarterback position. I understand your question, but I think you've got to continue to build a team around the quarterback. It's an important position, but I think you've got to build the pieces around him on both sides of the ball and in all three phases.

Q: There's a lot of talk about whether the Giants might trade up in the Draft. In 2018, you guys traded up in Buffalo from 21 to 12 a couple weeks before the Draft. The Jets traded up from, like, six to three a couple weeks before the Draft. When you're trading up weeks before the Draft – just process wise, not saying you would do that – do you have to like three prospects if you're going to pick third, or would you trade up hoping to get one guy at that spot?

A: Yeah, that's interesting, because we were actually, when that happened from six to three, we were actually doing a private workout with (Bills quarterback) Josh Allen. Like, literally there in Laramie, Wyoming, Josh is throwing, and Indianapolis traded that pick, and they were three. Again, you don't know what other teams think of the players or who they're going to get. Obviously, there was some inclination that the Jets were going up to get a quarterback at three. So, I think at that position, and I said it last year, it's a different stratosphere. You've got to get around these kids and you've got to get to know them. Until you're able to do that, it's hard to make those type of moves. So, we were still going through our process at the time in Buffalo to get around those prospects. Then once we were comfortable, that's when you make that type of move.

So, again, this is the start. There's a lot of these prospects that it's the first time we're going to get around them, and we're looking forward to it. Free agency will set the table for some of the decisions we make in the Draft. It's an exciting time for us.

Q: You wouldn't make, generally speaking, that kind of move for just one guy, right? Because you don't know what the teams in front of you are doing.

A: That'd be hard to do until you're on the clock. That's a different occasion. I know the Panthers did it last year, and they did it, like, I think the date was March 10. They traded up to one. So, whatever exposure they had to (Panthers quarterback) Bryce Young or (Texans quarterback) C.J. Stroud, whoever their guy was, must have been good enough that they said, 'We got our guy.' And I think that's important, because then if you get around them or you find information out that maybe you're not excited about, you just traded a lot of draft capital to go up to get somebody that now you're uneasy about. So, I think you've got to be comfortable with the film, you've got to be comfortable with who the player is, what the setup is going to be for that player to have success, before you do something like that.

Q: Are you comfortable with the state of your roster to give up the assets it would take to do a trade-up like that?

A: The roster is fluid. We still have free agency. The roster could look a lot different in three weeks from now based on what we do in free agency. So, that's evolving. It's hard to answer right now because of the way the roster is going to look, and that'll help set our plan as we go into the Draft. Some of it's going to be based on what we do in free agency, and again, the exposure to the players.

Q: Given what we saw last year with the running back market and the available backs this year, what do you make of the free agent market this year for running backs?

A: What do I think of the free agent running back market? Yeah, I mean, there's some good names there. I mean, 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.

That's a good question. That's a good question. I can't predict what's going to happen with the running back market. We'll have a better feel here in a couple of weeks. Once you get into that when you start doing the negotiations and the contracts, but yeah, three running backs were franchised last year. We'll see if they're franchised again this year, or maybe they're not, what their value is. So, there's a lot of uncertainty as you go into free agency, because teams can re-sign their players up until that Wednesday. They can negotiate with them; we can negotiate with them starting that Monday. So, you'll really get a feel for the market 13 days from now when we can start negotiating with agents.

Q: You're in a unique spot with Saquon because you went through so many rounds of negotiations, and you don't usually do that with a guy and be in the same spot the next year. How has his value changed in your mind from where you left it last July 15 or whenever that day was?

A: I wouldn't say his value has changed, especially in the organization. He's a captain, he's a leader, he's a hard worker. I think the world of Saquon and I still think he can play. So, 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.

Q: When you came here last year, you talked about how you were juggling a lot of balls. You had negotiations with two of your top players, you had the Combine. For your process, how much did you learn last year about how to do it and has your process changed at all? Are there things that you are now going to do differently that maybe you learned from last year?

A: Yeah, I think the process last year was sound. We're always going to evaluate every decision that we make. But when I look back on it, whether it was getting AT (tackle Andrew Thomas) done, the deal with Andrew Thomas; the deal with (defensive lineman) Dexter (Lawrence II); we did the deal with Daniel. Unfortunately, we franchised Saquon, we were hoping to get something done with him. (Linebacker) Bobby O(kereke) I think was a good addition; (Defensive lineman) A'Shawn (Robinson), Nacho (defensive lineman Rakeem Nunez-Roches).

So, I think in terms of free agency, I think the process went well. We were able to sign some guys that were valuable contributors. Now, there's some guys that we wish maybe we would have—we thought they would have contributed a little bit more. But I think it was a sound process, and every year is different. We don't have that many young players that we're looking to extend like we had last year. So, it's balancing signing those guys outside the building that can be role players or starters, but also understanding we want to build this through the Draft. When we took the job, we still want to build the team through the Draft and supplement it with free agency. And that's still going to be the case.

Q: Did the salary cap inflation last week, an unexpected amount, change your perception on using either the franchise or transition tags?

A: Yeah, that came into play. It really did. I was telling somebody earlier, Friday afternoon, I was watching film, and I get an email and it's from the league. It's the salary cap number. I opened it up, and our staff was on vacation through the weekend, so, I was in there and I'm like, 'Oh my gosh, I can't believe how much that that went up.' Because we were very conservative on our estimates in terms of our plan. It's caused us—we're going to reconvene here and talk about some of those things that that you were talking about. Because, again, we were operating in the 241 to 243 (million-dollar range). We were being conservative. It's a pleasant surprise where it ended up coming in.

So, yeah, we're going to recalibrate and say, 'Okay, now this is what the salary cap is, we didn't think it was going to be this much, how will that alter our plans?' If it'll alter them at all. Looking forward to doing that with my staff later this afternoon.

Q: You've talked about how you watch film. I'm just curious, looking at last year's draft class, (wide receiver) Jalin Hyatt, (cornerback) Deonte Banks, what are you looking for in your first watch? As soon as you turn on the tape, what are you looking for in these guys' film?

A: It depends on what position it is.

Q: Wide receiver.

A: Yeah, wide receiver, you want me to walk through that? It's the critical factors. We have critical factors and position specifics at every position. So, if it's a receiver, you're looking at quickness, can you separate, can you catch the ball? That's a requirement for receivers, catch the ball. Athleticism that's going to jump off the tape. And then you go down the line. There're several things that we look at at each position, but those are some of the initial things at receiver.

Q: With Jalin Hyatt, what was it that caught your eye about him?

A: The production, the speed against very good competition.

Q: With Saquon, I'm just wondering if even psychologically, with the franchise tag being off the table and a new agent in place, maybe this can go smoother this time? Because he wants to be here, and you just told us you want him here.

A: I wouldn't say the franchise tag is off the table, no. I think the new number if we're going to franchise somebody for the first time at that position is, like, 11.9 (million), and his number's not much more than that. So, the salary cap changes your philosophy on how you're going to attack things. That's not off the table. We don't want to do it. In a perfect world, we don't want to do that again.

We're going to have conversations, we're going to talk through it and see what his—I know he says he wants a fair deal and I appreciate that and ultimately, we've got to do what's best for the franchise short term and long term. We'll take all those things into account, but look forward to meeting with his representatives.

Q: When you talk about faith in Daniel Jones, does that faith rise to precluding drafting a quarterback in the first round?

A: Where we are at six, we're going to look at everything. We're going to look at everything. We're going to look at all positions. You hope you're not up there again; you don't want to be picking in the top 10, but it's a good draft. It's a solid draft across the board, and we're going to have an opportunity to get a good player, and we're going to evaluate all the positions and take the best player we can.

Q: What's it like when you're negotiating with one of your best buddies (Brandon Beane)?

A: Negotiating with Brandon is always difficult because I sat in that room multiple times and watched him negotiate. So, I know his tells, I know when he's BSing me, and it's probably a little bit to my advantage negotiating with him. It's good to have allies in this business, and if it makes sense… We were able to get that deal done pretty quick, but Brandon is one of my good buddies. I look up to him. He does a great job there and it's always good to call him if there's a player we're interested in, specifically somebody we drafted and had intimate knowledge of. It's good negotiating with him.

Q: You know how the locker room, the players in the room, feel about Saquon. Does that impact how you go about this situation with Saquon?

A: Yeah, and that was baked into a lot of our contract negotiations last year. That's why you go to a player like that and you try to extend him, and you stretch and you stretch and you stretch and ultimately you couldn't get something done. But yeah, all that bakes in. If they don't fit our mold or the makeup that we desire or the locker room, then we'll probably look elsewhere. It's okay to let players walk now and then if they don't fit that mold, but he's somebody that we'd like to try to get back.

Q: What do you think of the top of this quarterback class?

A: It's a good quarterback draft. It's not just at the top. There are some guys that are mid-levels that I think 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.

View photos of the Giants participating at the NFL Combine.