Giants: Daniel Jones contract influenced decision to let Saquon Barkley walk

daniel jones, saquon barkley, new york giants

The first episode of HBO’s “Hark Knocks: Offseason with the New York Giants” aired on Tuesday. The episode gave NFL fans plenty of insight into how the Giants have navigated their offseason, including spicy new details regarding the decision to let superstar running back Saquon Barkley depart in free agency.

Former Giants superstar signed with rival Eagles this offseason

Saquon Barkley, Eagles, Giants
Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

After spending the first six seasons of his career in New York, Barkley signed a lucrative three-year, $37 million deal with one of the Giants’ biggest rivals, the Philadelphia Eagles. The move was met with mixed reactions from Giants’ fans, who finally got some clarity on the situation during Tuesday’s edition of “Hard Knocks.”

Joe Schoen and his staff were forced to make tough decisions regarding Barkley’s future with the franchise

The episode features Giants GM Joe Schoen and his staff attempting to find a solution regarding their superstar running back, who was about to enter free agency at the time. Ultimately, the Giants settled for letting Barkley test the open market.

Much of the decision behind moving on from Barkley has a lot to do with quarterback Daniel Jones. Following a breakout season in 2022 in which Jones led the Giants to their first playoff victory in over a decade, he was rewarded with a four-year, $160 million contract to remain with Big Blue. As seen in the first episode of the HBO special, according to Joe Schoen, Jones’ contract factored into their decision regarding Saquon Barkley.

“You’re paying [Daniel Jones] 40 million dollars,” said Schoen. “It’s not to hand the ball off to a 12 million dollar running back.”

Schoen also noted last year’s negotiations with the star running back, who was later franchise-tagged by the Giants. The Giants GM detailed the emotional wear-and-tear the negotiations caused, saying it “was 10 years off of my life dealing with that.”

New York still not fully sold on Daniel Jones as the long-term solution

Oct 9, 2022; London, United Kingdom; New York Giants quarterback Daniel Jones (8) throws the ball in the second half against the Green Bay Packers during an NFL International Series game at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Even though the Giants prioritized Jones long-term, the team still has questions if he truly is the quarterback of the team’s future. New York reportedly tried and failed to trade up in the draft for North Carolina QB Drake Maye. Many of the questions surrounding Jones have to do with his performance on the field as well as his recent injury history.

“This is the year for Daniel,” Schoen told Giants Owner John Mara. “The plan all along was to give him a couple of years. Is he our guy for the next 10 years, or do we need to pivot and find somebody else?”

Giants GM defends his quarterback’s poor performance last season

Jones has battled numerous injuries in the past two seasons, his most recent being an ACL tear suffered early last season. While Schoen acknowledges the real concerns that come along with Jones’ injuries, he also defended his quarterback a bit, putting into perspective just how bad the Giants’ offensive line situation was.

“The reality is — facts — three serious injuries in two years. We need to protect ourselves,” Schoen told his staff. “He didn’t have much of a chance last year. … In Miami we had three practice squad guys playing for us (on the offensive line). You could have Pat Mahomes and he can’t f—king win behind that offensive line.

The Giants’ offensive line was historically bad in 2023

Miami Dolphins linebacker Andrew Van Ginkel (43) knocks down the pass by New York Giants quarterback Daniel Jones (8) during the first half of an NFL game at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, October 8, 2023.

To Schoen’s credit, New York’s offensive line last season was one of the worst in NFL history. The Giants allowed 85 sacks last season, by far the most in the NFL. Historically, it was the most sacks ever allowed in a single season in franchise history, and the second-most allowed in NFL history, behind just the 1986 Philadelphia Eagles, who allowed 104 sacks.

Despite the level of concern, it’s clear that Schoen still has faith in the quarterback he signed to a lucrative contract two years ago. Or perhaps, the Giants GM could be attempting to salvage what many view as a poor financial investment.

“I’m not giving up. Like, he’s under contract for three more years. Just protecting ourselves because the best predictor of the future is the past,” said Schoen.

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