Why N.Y. Giants declined option on QB Daniel Jones contract, yet picked up Dexter Lawrence

Art Stapleton
NFL writer

EAST RUTHERFORD - The Giants have declined to pick up the fifth-year option on Daniel Jones' rookie contract, making the 2022 season the final year on his current deal.

Don't take that as a sign team brass doesn't still believe in Jones as the starting quarterback, however - at least not yet.

This is strictly a business decision - and a wise one at that, just based on salary cap implications and guarantees involved - and not necessarily a statement about how the Giants feel regarding Jones, his presence as a team leader and his future.

But business is business, and it's also why the Giants have decided to pick up the fifth-year option on defensive lineman Dexter Lawrence, the 17th overall pick in 2019.

Here's a look at both decisions

The Giants would stand to lose roughly $8 million in the best-case scenario by not picking up Jones' fifth-year option, which seemed all along to be the most likely scenario. That's the difference between the fifth-year option and the 2023 franchise tag if Jones takes a step forward under the direction of the new coaching staff, notably head coach Brian Daboll, offensive coordinator Mike Kafka and quarterbacks coach Shea Tierney.

On the flip side, if the Giants picked up Jones' option for roughly $22 million for 2023 and he does not take that leap, they've gambled and lost that for next season. See what happened with Sam Darnold and Carolina for reference. You can believe in Jones, but you can also make the right call from a football business perspective.

As for Lawrence, he's been a solid and steady contributor for the Giants, even if he's yet to become (and may not) the pass rushing menace former GM Dave Gettleman promised he would be when he was drafted.

The market has developed nicely for defensive tackles similar to Lawrence this offseason and the fifth-year option is worth just over $10 million - a comparable price tag for what is out there and how that measures up to the position.

It will be interesting to see how Lawrence fits in defensive coordinator Wink Martindale's new scheme, and whether a fresh start with yet another coordinator can unlock more of the former Clemson star's skill set.

By declining Jones’ option, this season is now set up as a prove-it scenario where Jones will either earn a new deal from the Giants by improving his game and showing he can stay healthy, or he could ultimately force Daboll and Schoen to look elsewhere for their franchise QB.

New York Giants quarterback Daniel Jones walks to the field before the start of an NFL football game against the Kansas City Chiefs Monday, Nov. 1, 2021, in Kansas City, Mo. (AP Photo/Ed Zurga)

Giants co-owner and team president John Mara acknowledged earlier this offseason that, over the past three years, the franchise has done “everything possible to screw up” quarterback Daniel Jones.

The remarks from Mara came as part of yet another vote of confidence in Jones, who has unsurprisingly been in the building to get things moving on his fourth NFL season under the guise of Daboll, his third head coach, and Kafka, the fourth play caller in his ear since he's been here.

Jones said earlier this month he is cleared and will be ready to go this season after a neck injury cost him the final six games of last season.

“For me, my focus is on preparing myself," Jones said. “I take full responsibility for how I’ve played. We haven’t won enough games, we haven’t scored enough points, we haven’t done things well enough. So I take responsibility for that, as a quarterback you play a big role in those things. That’s what I’m focused on and making sure that myself as well as the offense and the team is ready to go.”