Daniel Jones has changed the tenor of the conversation.
After the Giants notably did not pick up his fifth-year option, Jones entered the season needing to prove to the Giants and their new regime that he’s their long-term quarterback and deserving of a new contract. Through the first few weeks, as was written in this newsletter, Jones remained a ways away from passing that evaluation despite the team’s on-field success.
The past two weeks have painted a different picture, however. As he’s taken on greater responsibility and elevated his play from game manager to game-winner in victories over the Ravens and the Jaguars, Jones, likewise, has increased his leverage in that critical decision. Previously, he needed to state his case to the Giants that he’s worth bringing back. At the moment, he’s on his way to reversing that dynamic, setting up a potential situation where the Giants could have to stave off other suitors and state their case to him.
Jones was named NFC offensive player of the week Wednesday morning after leading the Giants’ 23-17 win over the Jaguars. He completed 19 of 30 passes for 202 yards and a touchdown, tossing a 32-yard score to Darius Slayton that evoked his “Danny Dimes” moniker. More importantly, he rushed for a career-high 107 yards and the decisive go-ahead touchdown as the Jaguars proved unable to contain the threat he poses on the ground. The game also elicited Jones’ first real display of emotion on the field, when he barked at Marcus Johnson to “catch the ball” after a drop.
A week prior, he completed 70 percent of his passes and threw two touchdowns in a 24-20 win over the Ravens. His 112.1 passer rating was his second-highest mark of the season.
As he quietly has throughout much of this season, Jones delivered when it mattered most. He sparked fourth-quarter comebacks and game-winning drives in both wins, and he leads the NFL with four fourth-quarter comebacks overall and five game-winning drives. Both are double his totals in those areas in any of his three previous seasons.
Through seven weeks, under Brian Daboll’s development and offensive system, Jones is playing the best football of his career. At 25, he’s still young and evidently getting better, and is starting to flash a skill set that promises he can lead an offense on a playoff contender.
Other clubs are sure to have noticed as well.
There’s never a shortage of quarterback-needy teams in free agency, and the price tag Jones could command seemingly rises by the week. If Jones’ trajectory continues, how high will other teams be willing to bid to attain his services? How willing will the Giants be to match it, and maybe importantly, if the Giants can’t or don’t want to, how willing will Jones be to take a team-friendly deal or less money to stay?
If they choose, the Giants can fend off any other suitors and place the franchise tag on Jones, but it would be extremely costly and likely inhibit other needed acquisitions. This season, the franchise tag for quarterbacks was $29 million, per OverTheCap, and Pro Football Focus projects it to rise to $45.5 million next season. They also could use a transition tag, which PFF projects to be worth $28 million next season. That would allow other teams to negotiate with Jones and sign Jones to an offer sheet, and if he were to accept, the Giants would have a chance to match the offer sheet and retain him. If they choose to not match the offer, however, they would not receive any draft compensation from the team that signed him.
Finally, there is the non-exclusive franchise tag, which is projected to be at $31.5 million next year. Like the transition tag, it allows other teams to negotiate with Jones and the Giants to match any offer he accepts. If they don’t match the offer, however, the team that signs him would have to give the Giants two first-round picks. That also seems an unlikely option for the Giants.
On top of Jones’ free agency and price tag, the Giants also must decide on Saquon Barkley, whose contract is set to expire as well. Breakout stars Andrew Thomas and Dexter Lawrence likely will command large paydays in the near future, too.
The Giants played it safe in the offseason in not picking up Jones’ fifth-year option, giving themselves another year of analysis on which to make their decision. More and more, however, it seems likely that they cost themselves a few dollars.
Here’s a look at some other teams that could be interested in Jones’ services if the Giants can’t, or don’t want, to bring him back.
They failed with both Baker Mayfield and Sam Darnold, both of whom are set to become free agents after the season. They’ve seemingly committed to a rebuild after trading star Christian McCaffrey, but if they’re not in position to draft a top quarterback prospect, could they make a move for Jones? A Charlotte, N.C., native, Jones played locally at Duke.
Since Andrew Luck’s retirement, the Colts have tried unsuccessfully to find a veteran — unsuccessfully employing Phillip Rivers, Carson Wentz and most recently, Matt Ryan — to solve their quarterback problem. They’ve made those decisions largely viewing their team as ready to win now, and not wanting to take the time and risks associated with developing a young quarterback. They just benched the struggling Ryan for Sam Ehlinger, whom they selected in the sixth round in 2021. If he fails to stand out in starting duty, could they look to Jones as their latest experienced option from free agency?
They are likely eyeing one of the top prospects in the draft — Ohio State’s C.J. Stroud and Alabama’s Bryce Young are the consensus top two, likely followed by Kentucky’s Will Levis — and as it currently stands, should be in a good position to land one of them. If they somehow finish the season strong and out of good draft position, Jones could be an option.
Struggling in three games this year before getting hurt, Jameis Winston may have given the Saints plenty of reason to to turn in a different direction.
Tom Brady’s potential retirement looms. Coming off two years of contention and with a talented roster in place, if Brady does make the decision to leave after the season, Jones could be an experienced option to step right in.
Riding Marcus Mariota for the moment, they are likely still in the market for a long-term solution. They drafted Desmond Ridder in the third round last year, but likely would be open to better alternatives.
Today’s back page
Read more about the Yankees offseason:
⚾ Mariano Rivera would fire Aaron Boone as manager
⚾ Derek Jeter, CC Sabathia: Aaron Judge faces unique choice
Considering the paths not taken by the Knicks
Former Wisconsin star Johnny Davis has struggled through a concerning start to his NBA career after the Wizards drafted him with the No. 10 overall pick in the 2022 draft.
A two-way guard, Davis did not play in the team’s first three games, a healthy scratch by head coach Wes Unseld. He finally saw the court during the team’s 120-99 win over the Pistons Tuesday night, playing just three minutes and missing both shots he took.
Unseld said Wednesday that he could look to send Davis to the G-League to get more regular minutes.
It followed a rough summer and preseason for the 20-year-old. In three Summer League games, he averaged 8.3 points and shot just 27.6 percent from the field while committing 2.7 turnovers a game compared to 1.7 assists. In four preseason games, Davis was even worse, averaging 2.5 points on a paltry 9.5 percent shooting from the field.
Drafted one spot ahead of the Knicks’ original selection at No. 11, there was a sense at the time New York had perhaps missed out on the former Big Ten player of the year. The Knicks subsequently traded out of the first round in a series of deals, acquiring three future first-round picks and unloading Kemba Walker in the process, which helped the Knicks create the requisite cap space needed to sign Jalen Brunson.
Not every player the Knicks passed on during draft night has struggled as badly as Davis has, though:
Originally drafted by the Knicks before they dealt him to Oklahoma City, the French international has played 12.5 minutes a game through the Thunder’s first four contests and is averaging just 1.8 points a game. He is coming off a strong preseason in which he flashed his unique skill set at 6-foot-9, averaging 11 points on 57.9 percent shooting from the field and 47.1 percent shooting from behind the arc in five games, in which he was utilized both as a ball-handler and as a slasher from the perimeter.
Taken at No. 12 by the Thunder. Williams made his NBA debut last Wednesday night, scoring five points in six minutes in a 115-108 loss to the Timberwolves. The former Santa Clara star stood out during the preseason, however, averaging 14.4 points and 5.2 assists in five games, including a 21-point showing in the finale.
Originally taken by the Hornets at No. 13, then sent to the Knicks, the 6-foot-10 center from Memphis was traded to the Pistons in the Kemba Walker deal, which freed up cap space for the Knicks. Duren is gotten off to a fast start, averaging 21.4 minutes, 8.2 points, 8.0 rebounds and 1.2 blocks per game in his first five games. Just 18 years old, his “maturity” has already drawn strong reviews in the locker room.
It’s not exactly a question most Yankees fans have an interest in answering.
But it could soon stare them in the face.
With Aaron Judge now a free agent, the fierce bidding war among rival clubs trying to pry him away from The Bronx will begin to intensify once the “quiet period” ends. Following the Yankees’ ALCS elimination to the Astros, Judge notably referred to his place with the team in the past tense for the first time.
As The Post’s Joel Sherman wrote, the Yankees could try to secure Judge’s commitment before other teams can even get in his ear. But he’s likely set on testing the market and hearing what his offers are. He took an enormous bet on himself and succeeded massively.
So, if another team is able to sign Judge away, what spots would give Yankees fans the worst nightmares?
While unlikely, spurning the Yankees for the Red Sox would immediately reverse Judge’s legacy and standing in Yankees lore.
Boston’s 2023 payroll commitments rank just 15th in MLB. In other words, the Red Sox have ample money to spend, if not on their own star free agents, Xander Bogaerts and J.D. Martinez. They notably need to secure a long-term deal with Rafael Devers, whose contract expires after next season, but after finishing dead last in the AL East, could they move on from Martinez and go all-in on their rival? Would Judge be daring enough to go through with it? Crazier things have happened.
Beyond the bitterness of the rivalry, it would mean Judge stays in the division, with plenty of matchups to haunt the Yankees.
Although the crosstown rivals would only face off a handful of times in the Subway Series, a Judge move to Queens would represent a significant power shift between the Mets and Yankees, and particularly between owners Steve Cohen and Hal Steinbrenner.
Cohen has obviously proven he’s ready to spend, and has shown he’s willing to give both the long-term deal Judge likely craves (Francisco Lindor’s 10-year, $341 million contract) and the high-AAV that will have to go along with it (Max Scherzer, $43.3 million per year). For someone of Judge’s caliber, who can lift his club to the levels Cohen promised he’d deliver when he bought majority control, would Cohen take his spending to an even higher level? No statement would be louder than this.
The Dodgers reportedly have emerged as a potential suitor with a recent report Mookie Betts would be willing to move to second base to accommodate Judge playing right field. After a wildly successful regular season, followed by a bitterly disappointing postseason exit, adding Judge would likely give the Dodgers substantially the most talented roster in the league.
Although they wouldn’t match up too many times, a potential World Series duel could be painful.
Able to bring Judge back home to northern California, the Giants are expected to be heavily in the mix in the bidding process. Currently, they have just the 13th-highest payroll in MLB committed for next season, and are in prime position to be serious contenders in the sweepstakes.
If he does go elsewhere, the Giants are probably the most optimal landing spot.
This story originally appeared on NYPost