Daniel Jones’ $160M contract sets up new Giants challenge
The Giants’ choice to re-sign Daniel Jones was an understandable one given the alternative was going back to square one.
And after a 9-7-1 season and the franchise’s first playoff victory since the 2011 season, that is an unacceptable proposition.
So here they are.
The team agreed to ink Jones to a four-year, $160 million contract extension in the minutes leading up to Tuesday’s franchise tag deadline, sealing him as the team’s quarterback of the future and the face of the franchise.
The $40 million-per-year price tag plus incentives is the headline-grabber, but the number that matters here — even more than the $82 million guaranteed — is 8.4. That is the percentage of the 2023 salary cap that Jones’ base salary will take up, outside of the league’s top 10 highest percentages taken up by a QB, according to Spotrac’s cap tracking.
Jones, to his credit, did just about everything the Giants asked of him last season, clicking with Brian Daboll and leading the organization to its best year in a decade. That is no small item, and it makes his salary demands — especially in relation to what Derek Carr got from the Saints and Geno Smith got from the Seahawks in this free-agent market — more than reasonable.
Again: If he were to walk, the Giants would be left in the wilderness. Within that framework, everything that the Giants and Jones did makes sense.
But this is a lot to put on Jones, a player who is realistically well outside of the upper tier of NFL quarterbacks.
Jones, whose fifth-year option was declined by the Giants leading into the 2022 season, has had just one season where he looked like a playoff-caliber NFL quarterback. And the analytics largely suggest the Giants were not quite as good as their record indicated last season.
By estimated wins, a Football Outsiders metric that rates teams based on point differential, the Giants were expected to win just 7.2 games last season.
By DVOA, they were the 21st-best team in the league, and had the 29th-best defense.
Daboll’s coaching and Jones’ play in close games matters, and both surely helped the Giants to tip the scales. So many close victories, though, is a classic red flag for regression the following season.
Jones has a relatively low cap hit, estimated at $18.5 million next season. That will give the Giants flexibility to help the defense, but there is still a lot riding on him being the real deal.
Right now, we don’t know whether or not he is worth this kind of money. And like it or not, this is a roll of the dice — if Jones flops, the Giants are right back where they started.
One year of evidence is not a lot in the NFL.
A year ago, Zach Wilson was up-and-coming and Jones was on the hot seat. Then Jones went out and threw for 3,205 yards, 15 touchdowns and five interceptions, averaging just 0.1 yards per attempt more than he did in 2021.
Does that look like a player who took a major step forward or like the pieces around him displayed Jones in a much better light than before?
Realistically, it’s a little of both. And the Giants will be happy with that if it means they’re back in the playoffs next season.
But when lightning in a bottle gets you 9-7-1 with a Divisional Round loss, well, it’s hard to square that circle.
Unless Lamar Jackson walked through the door, there wasn’t much on the table for the Giants in terms of other options. The franchise tag might have been a way of making Jones prove it, but it also would have invited Saquon Barkley (who was given the franchise tag Tuesday in concert with Jones’ agreement) to walk, and incurred a bigger cap hit in 2023.
These are hard choices to make. And the Giants have made theirs.
The Jets are still waiting on Aaron Rodgers, but after the organization’s top brass flew out to California on Tuesday to meet with the mercurial quarterback, it appears as if they are very much in the mix to bring the franchise its greatest No. 12 since Joe Namath.
Speaking of the risks you take for competence at quarterback, this is one as well.
Rodgers would bring with him a massive sideshow to New York. Everything he says on Pat McAfee’s show would become a story.
Next offseason would be hell as Rodgers, inevitably, goes through the same cycle of waffling as he is now.
The Jets had another quarterback under those conditions in 2012. His name was Tim Tebow.
The difference is Rodgers might win them a Super Bowl. That, of course, would make everything worth it.
But if Rodgers comes, it will be with a buyer beware tag.
Today’s back page
🏈 VACCARO: Jets better be right about Aaron Rodgers
🏈 O’CONNOR: Now, the pressure is on Daniel Jones
⚾ SERBY: Yankees using playoff loss to Astros as fuel
🏒 BROOKS: Patrick Kane’s comfort paramount to Rangers’ success
A forgot-10 Knicks run
And then the letdown.
The Knicks’ joy ride of a nine-game winning streak ended Tuesday night with a 112-105 home loss to the lowly Hornets in which they led by 16 points at halftime — a game that was the opposite in many ways of Sunday’s rousing double-OT win in Boston.
The Knicks are still enjoying their best stretch in recent memory, rolling toward a second playoff appearance in three seasons.
It’s important to remember, though, that a run through February and March can’t be the highlight of the season when it’s all said and done.
Knicks fans have been down a similar road before, and it’s not a good thing that Linsanity is one of the defining highs for an entire generation of fans.
That generation has only seen the Knicks win one playoff series, a high that was quickly erased by seven years of missing the postseason that followed. As great as this streak was, it won’t matter if these Knicks can’t give the fanbase another memory come springtime.
The Knicks’ nine-game winning streak was tied (with a similar streak in 2021) for the longest unbeaten run by the team since the 2012-13 season. How did that group eventually stretch their streak to 13 games? Let’s take a look at some of their numbers and how they compare to this year’s squad:
2️⃣6️⃣: Where the Knicks ranked in pace in 2012-13, strikingly similar to this season’s No. 27 ranking.
🔟.9️⃣: The number of 3-pointers the ’12-13 Knicks made per game, which ranked No. 1 in the NBA. In a sign of how the league has changed, this year’s squad is averaging 12.5 makes per game from behind the arc yet ranks 12th in the league.
1️⃣9️⃣.3️⃣: The number of assists Mike Woodson’s club averaged per game, a league low. Maybe that isn’t surprising for a team led by Carmelo Anthony, but what is eye-opening is that this Jalen Brunson-led crew also ranks last in the league with 22.3 helpers a night.
1️⃣2️⃣: How many turnovers that Melo-led team committed per night, the best mark in the NBA. This season’s team ranks fourth in the league with 12.9 turnovers per game. It seems safe to say valuing possessions is a good way to string some wins together.
6️⃣.6️⃣: The gap in shot attempts per game between Anthony and the next most-prolific shooter on the 2012-13 team, J.R. Smith. The plan generally worked as the Knicks had the third-best offense in the league that season. Thibs’ crew is a bit more egalitarian: Julius Randle (18.5), Brunson (17.5) and RJ Barrett (16.2) largely share the shooting duties.
— Paul Forrester
Postcard from Port St. Lucie
As the Mets and everyone else experiment with the new pace-of-play rules that will change how baseball is played this season, lessons are being learned.
Tylor Megill learned Sunday in West Palm Beach that he should double-knot his cleats.
The Mets righty, during his second inning of work against the Astros, tied his cleats. As he walked off the mound after the frame, home-plate umpire Lance Barksdale intercepted him, and the two talked at length.
The message, according to Megill: A shoe-tie counts as a mound visit.
As MLB tries to cut out loopholes, it apparently has taken aim at loops and laces. The league does not want pitchers to buy extra time between pitches by tying their shoes, so bending down to re-lace will count against the mound-visit total.
Teams are permitted five mound visits per nine innings.
Still, pitchers surely will find ways to save their arms a few extra seconds in the era of the pitch clock.
Megill said he turned his back to catcher Tomas Nido a few times after pitches, which meant Nido held the ball for a few seconds longer.
The pitch clock does not begin until the pitcher receives the ball from the catcher.
— Mark W. Sanchez
St. John’s opens the Big East Tournament on Wednesday against Butler with the Red Storm seeking their first tournament title since 2000. Two players from that Mike Jarvis-coached team were drafted into the NBA later that year. Who were they?
(Hint: One of them was selected by the Knicks.)
(Scroll down for the answer.)
The most wonderful (hoops) time of the year
We are into the best two-week stretch of the year for basketball fans.
The past few days have provided a strong appetizer, and Tuesday saw a full slate of games including the West Coast Conference, Summit League, CAA and Horizon League tournament finals.
But Wednesday is when things really kick off. The ACC, Big Ten, Pac-12, Big East, Big 12 and SEC tournaments will be underway, with non-stop men’s college basketball from now through Selection Sunday.
As for the bubble, these are the teams to watch in the major conferences:
UNC: It’s do or die for the Tar Heels in Greensboro this week — starting Wednesday night against Boston College (7 p.m., ACC Network). They might need to go and win the whole thing to feel safe on Selection Sunday after a disappointing regular season, but a run that falls just short of an ACC title could be enough.
Oklahoma State: The Cowboys need to get by in-state rivals Oklahoma on Wednesday (9:30 p.m., ESPNU) first and foremost. If they do that, Thursday’s game against Texas will be must-watch TV for its bubble implications, with another win possibly standing between Oklahoma State and the NCAA Tournament.
Rutgers: We have to go with the locals in the Big Ten Tournament, where the Scarlet Knights will walk into Chicago looking to stop a free fall in which they’ve lost six of eight. They’ll face Michigan — another team that cannot afford a loss — in the early game on Thursday (noon, Big Ten Network), and it’s hard to see the loser of that game getting into the bracket.
Arizona State: The Sun Devils got a massive buzzer-beater against Arizona a couple weeks ago to boost their hopes of making the field of 68, but might need more than that. A loss against Oregon State in their Pac-12 Tournament opener on Wednesday (11:30 p.m., Pac-12 Network) could spell doom, but if they win that, then getting by USC in a potential matchup Thursday would be a big step in the right direction.
Vanderbilt: The Commodores finished their regular season on an 8-1 tear, and the SEC Tournament is played in their home city of Nashville. Vanderbilt is still in need of a run to have much of a chance, but it’s not impossible with potential matchups against LSU or Georgia on Thursday (9 p.m., SEC Network), then Kentucky on Friday with a win. Vandy could win any of those, and from there, who knows?
Big East: There’s not much to say about bubble teams in the Big East. UConn, Marquette, Creighton, Xavier and Providence each should be in on Selection Sunday, and no one else is particularly close. Maybe we could get a run reminiscent of Georgetown in 2021 — and it would probably be good for Patrick Ewing’s job status if he could pull another rabbit out of the hat — but barring that, there’s not much drama here.
These are some of the best days of the year. Enjoy it.
Erick Barkley (No. 28, Trail Blazers) and Lavor Postell (No. 39, Knicks). Both players were out of the NBA relatively quickly. Barkley, the point guard, averaged 2.9 points and 1.5 assists in 27 total games over two seasons with Portland. Postell, the energetic swingman, logged 61 games with the Knicks, all off the bench, averaging 3.2 points on 33.5 percent shooting.