Big Blue View Mailbag: Daniel Jones contract, free agent options, NFL draft, more

It’s an interesting, exciting time to be a New York Giants fan. Free agency is almost here. A draft is around the corner. Let’s open up the Big Blue View mailbag and answer some questions.

Jim Moriarty asks: We have a “good” tight end in Bellinger. However, I think adding Dalton Kincaid or Darnell Washington to the Giants offense would have more of an impact than a WR2 or any slot receiver. Kincaid should become a dynamic pass-catching weapon and security blanket for Jones (…assuming). Washington would make a huge impact in our running game right away, as effectively a third tackle (H-Back?) – and he can catch and move at a decent level. In either case, playing two tight ends would force the D arm to play either light (Kincaid) or heavy (Washington). Where and when can you take these guys?

Ed says: Jim, there is more than one way for the Giants to get the help they need. Getting a top pass-catching tight end is one of those ways, provided Brian Daboll and Mike Kafka were willing to adjust the offense to fit more of two tight end packages.

I think Kincaid, who is a tantalizing tight end, would complement Daniel Bellinger nicely. Washington, a 270-pound giant, is the wild-card. Some see him as a baby Gronk. I think a more realistic/fair comparison is Martellus Bennett.

Where would I draw them? I think if the Giants want Kincaid, they will have to take him at No. 25. I have no problem with that if they think he’s a better difference maker than any wide receiver on the board. Washington maybe a little later, but he may not be available at 57 in the 2nd round.

John Foti asks: I think Joe Schoen did a good job of signing Daniel Jones. If Jones continues to improve, everyone is happy. If not, then the Giants can exit after two years with a tolerable amount of dead cap in 2025 and 2026 when that cap will be much higher.

Here is my question. The Giants have secured a two-year window for Jones, Tyrod Taylor is in the final year of his contract and Davis Webb is gone.

Do the Giants use 3rd or 4th-round draft pick this year? If someone like Hendon Hooker is available in the bottom of the third round, do you pull the trigger?

Ed says: John, I absolutely think that with 11 draft picks, a need for a third quarterback, and the reality that they probably won’t want to spend significant free agent money on a No. 3 quarterback, the Giants could – and probably should – select a quarterback somewhere in the upcoming draft.

I don’t think it will be Hendon Hooker. I doubt Hooker will come out of the 2nd round and it seems foolish for the Giants to select a quarterback early after the deal they just gave Daniel Jones.

On Day 3 of the draft, I think there are several possibilities. I haven’t really studied them, I haven’t yet asked the great Mark Schofield for his opinion on the Day possibilities. I won’t be at all surprised if the Giants use a Day 3 pick on a developing cornerback.

This is part of Daniel Jones’ contract:

Dan Murphy asks: If Jones’ contract is 4/$160, but as the media is saying, it’s essentially a 3-year deal because of the huge unrealistic numbers in Year 4 — what’s the point of the extra year and all these bogus numbers anyway? Is there any real value in this in terms of cap manipulation or is it all just smoke and mirrors to claim a bigger contract than it really is?

Ronald Buchheim asks: Ed, I hope this question isn’t too basic, but can you explain to me how Jones signs for 160 million over 4 years, but only counts for $19 million against the cap this year. Did they just kick the can down the road and will they suffer financially for years to come?

Larry Malakian asks: DJ’s new contract includes $35 million in incentives, I believe Pro Bowl, MVP, playoffs, SB. Does this $35 million count against the Giants salary cap?

Ed says: I will go over all the issues surrounding Daniel Jones’ contract and do my best to explain how the numbers work to the best of my understanding. Please note that there are others who understand more about the cap than I do.

Let’s start with a chart from Over The Cap that shows the exact four-year breakdown of contracts:

Let me try to answer as many of these questions as I can, and maybe some others along the way.

Yes Dan, long term NFL contracts are always a bit of smoke and mirrors. If you look at the first three years in the contract chart above, Jones gets $112.5 million over the first three years of the contract, $82 million fully guaranteed and another $12 million of which is nearly guaranteed. You get this by adding a base salary, which varies each year, a signing bonus and a small workout bonus. That’s $37.5 million a year.

The final year, during which there is NO GUARANTEED MONEY, is worth $56.5 million. That inflates the average annual value to $40 million, which is what the Jones camp apparently wanted.

Ronald, I hope that clears up some of your questions. Four years, $160 million does not mean an even distribution of $40 million per year. Teams determine this based on how much they have available against the current cap and the expectation that the cap will be in the years to come. The expected cap for 2024 is 256 million dollars, and for 2025 it is 282 million dollars. The bumps in Jones’ cap hit are more than covered by that cap increase.

Jones actually got $46 million from the Giants as soon as he signed. He received a guaranteed $10 million for 2024 (salary + workout bonus). He also received his $36 million signing bonus. For salary cap purposes, that signing bonus is distributed annually, $9 million is charged for each year of the contract.

Larry, I don’t have access to the contracts. Some media insiders do. A site like Over The Cap, if they don’t get the contract details themselves, will deserve a place where the information is coming from. It’s often Pro Football Talk.

As for incentives, there are two types. These are ‘Probably for Earned Incentives’ and ‘Dislike Earned Incentives.’

It’s here explanation of those:

There are two types of incentives: likely to be earned (probable incentives) and unlikely to be earned (unlikely incentives). Probable incentives are performance-based benchmarks placed on a player’s contract that he was able to meet in the previous season. For example, Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott had 4,449 passing yards in the 2021 season.

So a likely bonus could be that he’ll have 4,400 passing yards in the NFL season in 2022. Likely incentives are included in team titles at the start of the year. If the player ends up not meeting the criteria, the team is credited with the amount of the unmet bonus for the following season.

If a player has a performance-based incentive that he didn’t reach the previous year, for example, Dak Prescott passing for 5,000 yards in 2022, that would be considered an unlikely incentive. Unlikely incentives do not count against the limit because they are unlikely to occur. Similarly, if the criteria for an unlikely bonus is met, the team’s salary cap next season will be reduced accordingly.

PFT says this on Jones’ incentives:

The deal also includes $70 million in available incentives, with a maximum payout of $35 million.

Jones will earn $1 million in incentives and a $1 million escalator each year for a top-15 quarterback spot. He can earn an additional $1.5 million in incentives and a $1.5 million escalator each year for a top-10 quarterback spot. He can earn an additional $1.5 million in incentives and a $1.5 million escalator each year as a top-five quarterback. That’s $4 million in incentives and $4 million in escalators if he’s among the top five running backs in any given season.

It also has playoff incentives that add up to $5 million in incentives and $5 million in escalators.

As explained to PFT, if Jones is like 2023 in 2022, he will earn another $1.75 million in incentives in 2023 and another $1.75 million in escalators in 2024. At the same level over the life of the contract, he will earn 12, $25 million of the available $35 million, bringing the total to $172.25 million — an annual average of $43.06 million.

I hope all of this helps you understand the reported contract structure.

Jason Byam asks: If the Giants are on the clock at pick 25 and the highest rated player on their board happens to be a right tackle (perhaps Darnell Wright), do you think it’s possible the Giants select a right tackle and move Evan Neal to guard? I know it’s too soon to give up on Neal, but wouldn’t he be a solid guard?

Ed says: Jason, how many more times do I have to say this — no, no, no, no, no. The Giants made Neal the no. 7 overall pick in the draft who played right tackle. The youngster had a rough debut season, but I’d be surprised if the Giants gave up on Neal so quickly as a right fielder. They have a lot of spots that could be upgraded with that pick at No. 25 — wide receiver, tight end, linebacker, cornerback, defensive line, interior offensive line. Running a real offense and moving Neal feels like you’re chasing a problem they may not have.

Neal himself said at the end of the season that he has played a different forward position every year since high school. He was looking forward to spending the entire offseason preparing to play a true offense and spending the season playing it. If he struggles again in 2023, then you have to consider moving him. Not yet.

Spencer Gross pie: It’s really awful to hear that USC’s Vorhees tore his ACL, but how about using a Day 3 pick on him if he’s still available in the 4th or 5th round? He most likely would have been long gone before the injury, but putting him in the building and learning the redshirt offense he will take over next year seems like a wise investment. I understand that Trey Smith’s medical issue was a different scenario, but a 6th round pick in 2021 and a full recovery worked in the Chiefs’ favor. Your thoughts?

Ed says: Spencer, the Giants have 11 picks in the upcoming draft – seven of them on Day 3. If they like Andrew Vorhees enough to take a player they know will have to wait a year, that’s something they’re comfortable with. no problem using the day 3 pick that way. A knee injury is something NFL teams are more understanding of than the medical issues that caused Trey Smith to fall in the draft.

Seth Weissman asks: If you were JS in the draft and had the choice to pick Bryan Bresee, Michael Mayer, Kelee Ringo, Jaxon Smith-Njigba or O’Cyrus Torrence first, who would you take and why?

Ed says: In a vacuum, considering only those picks and not knowing what the Giants are doing in free agency, my order (as of today) would be:

  1. Smith-Njigba — I have to give Daniel Jones the phone.
  2. Ringo — Not the cornerback I’d prefer here (Deonte Banks, cough, cough), but a good shot.
  3. Bresee — I have no problem adding to the defensive line.
  4. Mayer — I think I prefer Dalton Kincaid as a complement to Daniel Bellinger.
  5. Torrence — I could understand this pick. But if I’m taking an inside attacker, I want him to be a player capable of playing center.

Simon Hines asks: I was looking through ProFootballTalk’s Top 100 Free Agent List and it struck me how many linebackers are available in free agency. I counted 13 in PFT’s top 100: TJ Edwards; Bobby Wagner; Lavonte David; David Long; Tremaine Edmunds; Germaine Pratt; Bobby Okereke; Eric Kendricks; Leighton Vander Every; Alex Singleton; Drew Tranquill; Azeez Al-Shaair; and Denzel Perryman.

That seems like a lot of potentially good options for Schoen to consider in free agency at a position of need. Do any of those names jump out at you and do you think the number of LBs available this year will drive down the price of these free agents?

Ed says: Simon, it wouldn’t surprise me at all if linebacker is high on the Giants’ shopping list in free agency. Nick Falato has profiled many of the Giants 2023 NFL prospects in our StoryStream free agency.

Tremaine Edmunds stands out for his relationship with Joe Schoen and Brian Daboll of the Buffalo Bills. Not to mention the fact that he will only be 25 next season. David Long, TJ Edwards and Drue Tranquill are names of interest.

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