I'll admit, I was scratching my head a bit when I saw a recent report that New York Giants free agent quarterback Daniel Jones wants possibly as much as $45 million per season.
Not too long ago, Jones was viewed as a bust and turnover machine, and his fifth-year option was declined last offseason. The amount of $45 million is still eyebrow-raising even after he crushed the turnover narrative in 2022 and led the Giants to their first playoff win since 2011.
However, there's four reasons why Jones commanding $45 million per year isn't that crazy.
1. Jones was an above average QB in 2022
By most measures, Jones at worst was an average quarterback in 2022, and at best an above average signal-caller. He had the sixth-best rating in terms of ESPN's Total QBR, which takes into account rushing, sacks and fumbles. He was 11th in EPA per dropback, 13th in passer rating and 17th Pro Football Focus QB grades.
Why the high ranks? He had the fewest turnovers per game (0.5) by any qualified QB in 2022 and ranked fifth in rush yards at the position (708).
|Jones (2022 Season)||NFL Ranks|
EPA per dropback
PFF QB grade
2. He had a below average supporting cast in 2022
Doing all of that is even more impressive with a below average supporting cast.
Jones had a bad offensive line. PFF graded the Giants' offensive line 24th in pass blocking and 14th in run blocking. They were worse in ESPN's pass block and run block win rate metrics.
He didn't have great pass catchers. The collection of Isaiah Hodgins, Richie James, Darius Slayton and Daniel Bellinger were unheralded and a bit underrated. Still, none were top 20 in terms of PFF grades at their position or ESPN's pass catcher ratings.
An improved supporting cast would put a higher ceiling on Jones' play and answer some criticism of his less-than-gaudy passing numbers (3,205 pass yards, 15 touchdown passes) and short average throw distance (6.4 yards downfield -- second shortest in NFL) in 2022.
|Jones' Supporting Cast||2022 PFF Grade Ranks at Position|
OL pass blocking
OL run blocking
WR Isaiah Hodgins
WR Richie James
WR Darius Slayton
TE Daniel Bellinger
3. Average to above average QBs regularly break the bank
As fellow CBS Sports NFL writer Cody Benjamin puts it: "If you have a good-enough QB who's been in your system, you pay what the market tells you rather then jeopardize your potential to be a playoff team (and your job) by restarting and trying to find the next elite top five guy."
I couldn't have said it better myself. This has been proven time and time again in the last decade.
At one point, Joe Flacco (twice), Derek Carr, Matthew Stafford, Jimmy Garoppolo, Carson Wentz, Jared Goff, Dak Prescott all were the "highest-paid player in NFL history" by some measure. I would argue that 2022 Daniel Jones more or less fits that mold of quarterback.
|Notable QBs to Become Highest-Paid Player in NFL History||NFL Record|
2013 Joe Flacco
2016 Joe Flacco
2017 Derek Carr
2017 Matthew Stafford
2018 Jimmy Garoppolo
2019 Carson Wentz
2019 Jared Goff
2021 Dak Prescott
$66M signing bonus
4. $45M not what it used to be
In addition, $45 million per year for Daniel Jones wouldn't even be record-breaking. It would tie him for the fifth-highest-paid player in terms of average annual value. It's also the same amount Patrick Mahomes gets paid.
While that may be shocking, it needs to be taken into context with the rising salary cap. Forty-five million dollars per year is 20 percent of the 2023 salary cap. Twenty percent of the salary cap in 2021 amounted to $37 million per year.
|NFL Season||Salary Cap||20% of Total|
Does this all mean the Giants should hand Daniel Jones a deal worth $45 million per year? Heck no. The list of record-breaking QB deals above speaks to that. I'm sure if their teams could go back and do it again they would have never made Flacco, Carr, Stafford, Garoppolo, Wentz and Goff the highest-paid player in NFL history.
Still, based on recent history we shouldn't be surprised if the Giants do it anyways.
Instead, the Giants should learn from those past mistakes. Jones' play in 2022 has earned him a longer look. Yet the projected franchise tag value for quarterbacks ($32.4 million) would be more appropriate, or a two-year deal worth $60M-$70M as Jeff Kerr suggests. We shall soon see what the Giants ultimately do with their talented quarterback this offseason.