- Wide receiver trade buzz: Chase Claypool and Brandin Cooks are generating trade interest.
- Daniel Jones’ future: One league source believes the transition tag is the New York Giants’ best option to retain their QB next season.
- 2023 NFL Draft QBs: Kentucky’s Will Levis and Tennessee’s Hendon Hooker face off this weekend as prospects on the rise.
Estimated reading time: 7 minutes
DANIEL JONES’ LOOMING CONTRACT SITUATION
The New York Giants made the safe decision back in April not to pick up quarterback Jones’ fifth-year option. Based on mistakes the Carolina Panthers and Cleveland Browns made picking up the fifth-year options of Sam Darnold and Baker Mayfield, respectively, it was probably still the smart one, though it could wind up costing the New York some money now that Jones and the Giants are off to a hot 6-1 start.
If Jones and the Giants continue this tear, it would be a bold decision to start over at quarterback despite the fact that Jones currently ranks 16th with a 70.6 overall PFF grade. Signing him to a contract extension is also a bit of a risk since this is the best football he’s played in his NFL career. In an ideal world, they would buy themselves another year that the fifth-year option would have provided, and they can do that with a transition or franchise tag.
An exclusive franchise tag, the one the Baltimore Ravens will likely use on Lamar Jackson, will cost a projected $45.5 million for a quarterback, which is obviously too costly for Jones. Another team cannot negotiate with a player on an exclusive franchise tag.
A non-exclusive franchise tag is projected to cost around $31.5 million, per Over The Cap. If the Giants signed Jones to a non-exclusive franchise tag, then another team could sign him to an offer sheet, and if New York declined to match, that team would be forced to fork over two first-round picks. That’s still a lot of money for a quarterback who has not ascended into the upper echelon of quarterbacks this season, and it’s unlikely that a team would give up two first-round picks to acquire Jones on an offer sheet.
A league source we spoke to believed the Giants’ best course of action would be to apply the transition tag – projected to cost around $28 million – on Jones, but that comes with its own complications.
First, it would allow another team to sign Jones away without any trade compensation. If another team signed Jones to an offer sheet and New York declined to match, then Jones would go to that team. Of course, the Giants could agree to match the offer sheet, but with that would likely bring a long-term extension. One of the transition tag's appeals is that it doesn’t come with the July 15 hard date for long-term negotiations. If a player is signed to a franchise tag, then he only has until July 15 to agree to a long-term contract extension. If the two sides don’t agree, he would play that season under the one-year franchise tag. Players on transition tags can continue to negotiate long-term extensions beyond July 15.
If the Giants use a franchise or transition tag on Jones, then they can’t use one on running back Saquon Barkley, who also would be a free agent, however. If the Giants can reach a long-term deal with Barkley, or if they’re OK with him leaving in free agency, then it’s a non-issue.
Jones does have some leverage in this situation since the Giants likely will finish with too good of a record to land one of the top quarterbacks in the NFL draft and because Jones is either better or more reliable than many of next year’s free-agent quarterbacks, including Geno Smith, Jimmy Garoppolo, Mayfield, Darnold, Teddy Bridgewater, Jacoby Brissett, Andy Dalton, Drew Lock and Gardner Minshew. Tom Brady is also set to hit free agency this offseason, though it’s entirely possible he could decide to retire after the season.
WIDE RECEIVER TRADE CANDIDATES
Three wide receivers drawing trade interest are the Pittsburgh Steelers‘ Chase Claypool, Houston Texans‘ Brandin Cooks and Denver Broncos‘ Jerry Jeudy, per sources. In most cases, a trade is less likely than no trade even as the Nov. 1 deadline nears. That being said, it sounds like a Day 2 pick is the going rate for Claypool, Cooks and other top wide receiver options.
Free-agent wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. remains a possibility for wide receiver-needy teams, as well.
NFL DRAFT QB BUZZ
Kentucky’s Will Levis is making things interesting, joining Alabama’s Bryce Young and Ohio State’s C.J. Stroud as the 2023 NFL Draft’s top quarterback prospects. A win over Tennessee would impress many folks. Two sources indicated Levis is a “likely” top-10 pick at this point, though there’s plenty of time left in the college football season.
Two other sources believe Tennessee’s Hendon Hooker could sneak into the first round of the draft, though another source was less confident. Hooker will be 25 years old in January and is sixth among FBS quarterbacks with a 90.6 overall PFF grade this season. He’s made 12 big-time throws and just four turnover-worthy plays this season. He also has 30 carries for 379 yards with three rushing touchdowns. He has 14 missed tackles forced and has picked up 200 yards after contact.
NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS’ QB CONTROVERSY
Bill Belichick still wouldn’t name a starting quarterback for Sunday’s game against the New York Jets following the New England Patriots’ Week 7 loss to the Chicago Bears that saw Mac Jones open the game before giving way to Bailey Zappe as part of a planned quarterback rotation.
One league source we spoke to didn’t seem overly surprised that Belichick once again is declining to publicly name a starter, pointing out that the Patriots head coach tends to be unorthodox.
“Another week of nonsense,” another league source said.
When asked if Jones would start if his high ankle sprain is fully healthy, Belichick said he wouldn’t deal in hypotheticals.
“So let's see where that is and what that is,” Belichick said Tuesday morning.
The Patriots head coach would say that the QB rotation “didn’t work out” in the 33-14 loss to the Bears, so don’t expect to see another platoon against the Jets.
A third league source pointed out that the Patriots entered Monday night’s game with two intriguing quarterback options – a 2021 first-round pick in Jones and an ascending rookie in Zappe. Monday night’s disaster left them without an attractive option at the position, as Jones played three series and threw an interception while Zappe finished with two interceptions of his own. A litany of alternative options would have been better from Jones playing the entire game to work out the kinks to Zappe starting until either he lost a game or Jones was fully healthy.
The quarterback controversy in New England went from fun and exciting to downright sad in the matter of one night, as Jones was booed and met by “Zappe” chants as the offense stalled with the Alabama product at signal-caller. And the offense experienced some Zappe magic with the rookie on the field, but that even subsided in the blowout loss.
Belichick is perhaps the greatest head coach in NFL history. If anyone can fix this situation, it’s him, but he’s started out the week with a familiar approach.
The Patriots could be without their starting center on Sunday against the Jets. David Andrews is in concussion protocol, according to a source. He suffered the head injury in the fourth quarter when Bears defensive tackle Mike Pennel hit him on an illegal blindside block. Pennel was ejected from the game for the hit. Andrews stayed down on the turf for a few moments before departing for the locker room.
Andrews was feeling better as of Tuesday afternoon.
New England has a short week from Monday to Sunday before their game in New York. Veteran offensive lineman James Ferentz replaced Andrews on Monday night. The Patriots also have undrafted free agent Kody Russey available to be elevated off of the practice squad.
Andrews has an 83.1 overall PFF grade since 2017. That's sixth among center in that timespan.