Joe Schoen ‘cautiously optimistic’ about Daniel Jones, Saquon Barkley deals after recent negotiations

INDIANAPOLIS — Joe Schoen’s urgency to re-sign quarterback Daniel Jones to a long-term contract extension in the next week was palpable on Tuesday.

The Giants’ GM said he is “cautiously optimistic” about reaching deals with both Jones and running back Saquon Barkley after recent negotiations with their agents.

Schoen said he would continue his “constant contact” with Jones’ new Athletes First reps on Tuesday afternoon in their third recent in-person conversation. And he said there is no doubt Jones will be the Giants’ quarterback in 2023.

“We’ll continue to hammer [it] out, try to get closer to getting something done, hopefully,” Schoen said at the NFL Combine.

But there is clearly still work to do.

Schoen said “there’s still a gap” between the Giants’ and Barkley’s preferred values, although they are “a little bit closer” than they were a month ago. And the GM said he already has an idea of his “walkaway number” that would be too rich for the risk.

With Jones, meanwhile, Schoen is still feeling out the negotiations in their early stages and doesn’t have a walkaway number in mind just yet (“we’ll see”). He would not confirm or deny a report that Jones was seeking up to $45 million per year, though.

“I’m not gonna get into specifics of the negotiation,” he said. “You have to go through hard times before you come out the other end with better times in negotiations. We’re trying to work through it [with both players].”

It’s important not to confuse Schoen’s urgency for desperation, too.

He wants to get both players signed before 4 p.m. on March 7, his deadline to use one franchise tag to retain the rights of one of his unrestricted free agents. He doesn’t want to have to use the tag at all.

But if he must, that will have consequences.

“There is [urgency], but it’s gotta be right for both parties,” Schoen said. “If it gets out of hand and it’s out of our comfort zone, we have the tag and can only tag one player. We’ll use that. And if somebody’s gotta walk, that’s unfortunate, but it’s part of the business and we’re still building a team. That’s important to keep in mind.”

Schoen stressed that he doesn’t want to have to use the $32.4 million franchise tag on Jones because he wants to have resources to build the team around his QB.

“If you have to franchise Daniel, I don’t believe that’s best for the organization and I don’t believe that’s best for Daniel, especially as we try to build the team around him and questions about receiver and other positions on the other side of the ball where we may need depth,” the GM said. “So it does hurt you a little bit in the team-building process, but we’re prepared if that’s a scenario that we’re faced with and we’ll have a plan B and try to execute that the best we can.”

Later, Schoen reiterated that tagging Jones would “limit the resources you can use from outside the building, the [free agents] you like or whatever. It’s gonna limit the price point or tier of player you’re gonna be able to get. So it’s definitely gonna affect it from that standpoint. You’re gonna have to draft and try to supplement the roster around him with young talent.

“It’ll be better for Daniel and better for Saquon if we get deals done without having to use the franchise tag.”

Schoen wasn’t levying threats, more like cutting through to the hard truth. He values Jones and Barkley but needs money to keep building the roster around them.

That leaves a lot of the Giants’ other decisions in a holding pattern as they work out the futures of their quarterback and running back. Schoen has plans in place depending on how this plays out.

“We’re not really gonna know until March 7 where we’ll be,” he said. “We’ll have a little bit better idea and we have contingency plans based on where we land on contracts with those guys.”

The start of Jones’ negotiations, of course, were delayed by the quarterback switching agencies from CAA to Athletes First. Schoen interestingly had a pretty long, prepared answer to clarify the Giants’ lack of involvement in that decision and switch.

“That was something personal that Daniel wanted to do,” Schoen said. “I didn’t really get into it. But we had never had any conversations with CAA. They have no idea what value we thought. I have no idea what they would have asked.

“That was totally separate,” he added. “We have a great relationship with CAA, a great relationship with Athletes First. We had just never even embarked on any type of negotiations, numbers, anything. That was just something Daniel decided to do on his own. Then once there was a separation, we started talking with Athletes First.”

The bottom line, it seems, is that the Giants are motivated, especially on Jones, to get something done. They’re hopeful both players will come back on multi-year deals. Their actions say as much.

But there is still work to do to bridge both gaps. The clock is ticking. And Schoen seems committed to resolving these major negotiations soon, even if it means some difficult decisions.

“They’re two separate entities,” he said of Jones and Barkley, stressing them both as priorities. “If we were waiting on one, we wouldn’t have contract offers out to both of them. The goal is to get both of them done and have them be New York Giants.

“They’re a big part of why we had success last year. We’d like to have them both back,” Schoen added. “But sometimes it just doesn’t work out.”