Did the Giants make a mistake passing on a Justin Fields trade?

NFL: Chicago Bears at Green Bay Packers, new york giants
Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

New York Giants general manager Joe Schoen stated several weeks ago that the team would be looking to add a veteran quarterback in free agency. This past week, they executed that strategy, securing Drew Lock on a one-year deal with $5 million guaranteed. Lock is coming from a Seattle Seahawks team that favored Geno Smith, but he stepped up when asked and put together some solid film.

Lock has a big arm and the qualities to operate a downfield offense, taking risks and looking for big plays. However, they passed on the acquisition of Justin Fields from the Chicago Bears, who landed with the Pittsburgh Steelers on Saturday for a conditional sixth-round pick.

Some might ask, why would the Giants decide to walk away from acquiring Fields in favor of Lock?

Fields is objectively the better player, throwing for 2,562 yards, 16 touchdowns, and nine interceptions this past season. He logged a 74.4% adjusted completion rate and a 61.4% completion rate with 14 dropped passes. Fields has become a better passer over the past few years, but he is still working on his development as a fourth-year player in the NFL. However, the 25-year-old added 653 yards on the ground with four touchdowns last season — which is a value Lock certainly can’t offer.

Why Wouldn’t the Giants Add him to the Mix?

There’s a strong argument to make that Fields would’ve competed with Daniel Jones for the starting quarterback job, and maybe that’s not what the Giants wanted when they decided to go in the direction of Lock, who’s actually more expensive for the 2024 season.

If the Giants wanted a position battle at quarterback, Fields would’ve been the easy decision to acquire, especially since it’s essentially only a one-year deal, and they can move on. However, they would also have the fifth-year option as a potential asset if Fields played well and was deserving of another opportunity at $25.6 million for the 2025 season.

Either way, whether it be Fields or Lock, it’s an easy situation to move on from.

It is possible that Schoen didn’t want to acquire Fields because he’s eyeing a quarterback in the 2024 NFL draft, and Lock wouldn’t get in the way of their plans to inject a rookie passer into the fold. Fields and his upside may pose more questions than answers. Lock is used to being a primary backup, while Fields has been the starter for three straight years.

Maybe the Giants aren’t looking for a quarterback competition at all — they’re trying to structure a hierarchy of quarterbacks that they can work with and develop at their own pace.

Fields is looking for playing time, and landing with the Steelers, where he can learn and offer support to Russell Wilson, isn’t a bad consolation prize. Seemingly, the Steelers are looking to compete in 2024, and Fields is a high-level backup in case of emergency.

The Giants clearly don’t feel a high-end backup is necessary unless they have a new quarterback plan moving forward. Jones’s situation is murky, especially due to his injury history and the uncertain future that lies ahead.

The Giants Can’t Afford to Commit Further to Daniel Jones

If the Giants take the out in Jones’s contract after the upcoming season, they can save more than $20 million in 2025 to allocate toward free agency. In addition, if Jones even sees the field for a snap, they are running a major risk. If he gets injured again in 2024, his entire 2025 salary becomes fully guaranteed — they will owe him $41.6 million instead of just $22.2 million in dead money.

Based on all of the information available and the fact the Giants added Lock, who knows he’s not competing for a starting job, points toward the possibility of drafting a quarterback. For what it’s worth, a rookie could completely take over in year one, meaning Lock could be the primary back up, and Jones would simply sit for the entire 2024 campaign as the Giants try to avoid injury risk.

Of course, this could be conjecture and a perspective aiming in the wrong direction. Still, it is certainly interesting to consider the fact the Giants had better options on the board and decided to pass on them in favor of Jones remaining the starting quarterback, as Lock suggested during his press conference. Schoen knows the risk of running it back with Jones, and he’s also aware that his future as the team’s GM relies on getting the QB position right.

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