The New York Jets should not poach the QB from their crosstown rivals
The NFL free agent market is an interesting study of the laws of supply and demand.
However, it would take an economist to appreciate the absurdity of the quarterback market, especially in regard to Giants QB Daniel Jones.
In reference to the New York Jets‘ first meeting with Derek Carr, Jones was linked as a possible Jets target for the first time. After all, the Giants are seemingly struggling to find common ground with their QB, who reportedly started with an asking price of $48 million per year.
If Daniel Jones is worth $48 million per year, then any of the writers at Jet X should be the head coach of the Jets. It’s the same gap in value vs. results.
However, the first rule of the NFL player market is that “it only takes one”: that one team who is stupid enough and desperate enough to give that player the deal they’re absolutely not worth. The classic example of that is Deshaun Watson’s fully-guaranteed deal from just last offseason and the subsequent Kyler Murray saga.
The thing is that Daniel Jones is different from Watson and Murray. He’s different from Lamar Jackson. He’s even different from Derek Carr and Jimmy Garoppolo.
The main concern with Daniel Jones is that he is still not a good enough quarterback to be able to guide his team without a perfect coaching staff and game plan.
At least those other players have had success reading a defense. Jones, on the other hand, had his fifth-year option declined last offseason precisely because Joe Schoen and Brian Daboll knew that he couldn’t do that.
Due to the Giants’ lack of cap space last season, they decided to roll with Jones for one more year. There was every indication that they planned to bottom out as a roster and then draft their QB of the future in 2023.
The problem is that Daboll and Mike Kafka did too good of a job with Jones. They set up a gameplan to suit his strengths and were able to squeak into the playoffs despite being clearly fraudulent.
Jones had some good games toward the end of the season and suddenly raised the narrative that he was “the guy.” It was incredible that between the Giants’ 20-20 tie with the Commanders in Week 13 and their 38-10 blowout of the Colts four weeks later, Jones completely flipped the script about himself in the media.
Let’s take a look at some of the reasons that Jones should not be on the Jets’ list.
On the surface, it’s very easy to think that Jones magically improved his turnover problem. After all, he only had five interceptions and three lost fumbles for a total of eight turnovers in 2022, including a 1.1% interception rate that was the lowest among all quarterbacks.
However, Jones’s turnover-worthy play rate was 3.1%, tied for 18th out of 38 qualified QBs (min. 175 dropbacks). That’s still not a terrible rate, but it belies the idea that Jones was very careful with the football. 2.81% of his attempts resulted in turnover-worthy plays that were not intercepted, the seventh-worst rate among all QBs.
Furthermore, even more than interceptions, fumbles were the downfall of Jones through the first three years of his career. Per nflfastR data, among 65 QBs with at least 200 total dropbacks from 2019-22, Jones had the 11th-highest fumble rate per dropback at 2.16%.
Statistically, once a player fumbles the ball, it should be considered a strike on his record regardless of which team recovers since fumble recovery is largely luck. That fumble rate is scary for any QB, let alone one that wants $48 million per year.
Lack of field and game awareness
Football Outsiders has a statistic called Air Less Expected (ALEX) on third downs, which they describe as “the average difference between the length of the quarterback’s throw and the distance needed for a new set of downs. The number listed here only includes third downs and is not adjusted for passes thrown away or batted down.”
In other words, ALEX measures how far past the third down marker a QB normally throws the ball. Although individual third downs involve screen passes on third-and-long to avoid a turnover, this metric can be used as one measure of field awareness.
It is instructive that Jones ranked 33rd out of 34 qualified QBs (min. 200 pass attempts) in ALEX at -1.2, ahead of only Matt Ryan. This means that, on average, Jones’s third-down passes were 1.2 yards short of the first-down marker.
Part of this can likely be attributed to many third-and-long situations. However, when you turn on Jones’s film, the first thing that jumps out is the sheer number of times that he threw the ball short of the sticks on third down—and not just one yard short, either.
Note that ALEX measures the depth of the throw, not how many yards were actually gained on the play. It could be that the Giants got first downs on some of these plays due to YAC. However, relying on that consistently is playing a dangerous game. When the average comes out short of the sticks, that likely means the quarterback is throwing the ball short way too often.
Now, you can say that this was by design from Brian Daboll and Mike Kafka, but that in and of itself is an indictment of Jones, perhaps even more so than his ALEX itself. Jones’s coaches did not trust him to throw the ball past the sticks on third down.
This is consistent with what happened in Jones’s first three years in the league: every time he was faced with a play that the defense knew was a pass, his chances of a turnover went up tremendously. His play-caller recognized that and avoided putting him in such situations to the greatest extent possible with screens, one-read-and-go calls, and quick passes designed for YAC.
Furthermore, as mentioned earlier, Jones’s high fumble rate indicates a lack of field awareness. He simply does not know what is going on around him. As recently as 2021, Jones was the fifth-worst among QBs in strip-sack rate; five out of his 22 sacks resulted in strips, a 22.7% rate ranking 30th out of 34 qualified QBs.
Jones has dealt with the injury bug throughout his career. In 2019, he missed two games with a high ankle sprain. In 2020, he missed two games with hamstring and ankle injuries. In 2021, he missed the final six games of the season after a neck injury landed him on IR.
2022 was the first year that Jones stayed healthy for an entire season. Is that the kind of player any team wants to commit huge money to?
Poor post-snap recognition
In the Giants’ 2022 Divisional Round victory over the Vikings, Jones went 24-for-35 for 301 yards with two passing touchdowns and zero interceptions. He had a QB rating of 114.1, was sacked three times, and had 8.6 yards per attempt. He also had 13 non-kneel rushes for 81 yards at 6.2 yards per carry.
However, in his film breakdown, Kurt Warner demonstrated that a lot of Jones’s big plays were due to breakdowns in the Vikings’ defense rather than anything special by the quarterback. He also showed some of the plays Jones failed to make.
More than that, though, what I noticed on the game broadcast was the number of times that Jones threw a short pass that the defense came closer and closer to jumping. The next week, James Bradberry of the Eagles finally capitalized by picking one off. Jones kept doing it and didn’t even seem to notice that the defense was keyed in on it.
This may sound like picking on Jones. It is—in the sense of talking about him as a quarterback worthy of a large contract. This was a player who went from borderline NFL starter to a potential $45 million man in the span of about two months.
That’s not to say he doesn’t have strengths, starting with his legs. Jones is still underrated as a runner; he may not be Lamar Jackson and Justin Fields, but he’s not that far below them in terms of his ability to find space, elude tacklers, and pick up chunks with his legs.
Not including kneel-downs, Jones had 107 rush attempts for 723 yards (6.8 yards per carry) and seven touchdowns in 2022. He ranked fifth among quarterbacks in rushing yards.
Jones also executed the Giants’ game plan very well this past season. He found those slants and sail routes and did a much better job of avoiding turnovers. He did better at recognizing man coverage presnap and finding the open guy as a result.
It is also important to note that Jones was victimized by a complete lack of receiving talent. Kenny Golladay was not a playable receiver, and Kadarius Toney, for all his Super Bowl heroics, did not know the playbook. Jones was throwing to guys like Darius Slayton, who had been a cut candidate in the offseason, and Isaiah Hodgins, who was a forgotten man.
Sterling Shepard tore his ACL, and rookie Daniel Bellinger, Jones’s favorite target earlier in the season, had a nasty eye injury that kept him out several games.
This showed up in Jones’s stats in a very obvious way. Not only did Jones suffer from a 7.8% drop rate, tied for the eighth-highest among 38 qualified QBs (min. 175 dropbacks), but he also had the highest on-target rate of all QBs at 81.1%.
That would seem to indicate that the drops were the fault of his receivers rather than inaccurate but catchable throws (which tends to be the case for QBs with high drop rates).
The price is not right
Looking at free-agent quarterbacks this offseason, it made sense to include Jones as a possible Jets target if he did not sign an extension or receive the franchise tag. After all, he’s still young (25) and displayed intriguing two-way skills in 2022.
In many ways, it’s easier to commit money to him than, say, Jimmy Garoppolo, who is simply unexciting. Jones brings a little more oomph to his game.
However, the reported starting asking price of $48 million is a non-starter. Yes, all that matters in the NFL is the structure of guarantees, and it’s likely that he asked for an outrageously high number to increase his negotiating leverage. Still, even $35 million over multiple years is too much for Jones, especially if Derek Carr will not receive that amount.
Carr is by far a better quarterback than Jones. Carr can read a defense, slide protections, and make multiple reads on a play. You don’t have to structure a unique game plan to win with Carr. With Jones, you need a Daboll-esque coach to be competitive.
I would argue that Jimmy Garoppolo is also head and shoulders above Jones just in his ability to execute an offense. Yes, Garoppolo has played in a heavily YAC-reliant offense, but even he exceeded (7.3, 30th) Jones’s 6.4 average depth of target, which was dead-last out of 38 qualified QBs.
Garoppolo’s health concerns aren’t that much higher than Jones’s, and he will likely cost a lot less in terms of both money and years. It would be a no-brainer for me to sign Garoppolo as a bridge QB rather than commit to Jones.
Hopefully for the Jets, they lock up their 2023 QB soon in either Aaron Rodgers or Derek Carr. However, should the worst happen, Jones is not Plan B, or C, or even D.
How to compensate him should remain someone else’s problem.
As a lifelong Jets and Giants fan, I absolutely agree that Daniel Jones is a poor long term choice for the Jets, especially at this price point. My reasoning differs from yours. He does not win games for his team. He could lead a superior team to a victory, but he does not take over games and win them. The Jets need a leader and a winner at QB. Jones is not the guy. What he is doing to the Giants makes me question his character. If anyone should take a hometown discount to stay with his team, Daniel Jones is it.
A hard “no”