These complicated Daniel Jones talks nothing new for Giants

Michael Strahan is in the Giants’ Ring of Honor. So is Osi Umenyiora, his former teammate and partner in crime against opposing quarterbacks. These two once-feared pass rushers are welcomed back into the building whenever they want to come by, and when they do, hugs abound.

Strahan played the entirety of his 15-year career for the Giants. Umenyiora spent his first 10 years with the Giants before finishing up with two seasons in Atlanta.

Ask them and they will tell you: All these years later, they still bleed Giants blue.

Intertwined with all their glory and affection for the franchise is a history of contract turmoil and distrust. Yes, things got ugly with Strahan, and later with Umenyiora, when they openly feuded with the team about what so many conflicts are about: money. Both players experienced moments that led many to believe, “Well, there is no coming back from this after such bitterness was exposed.’’ But they both came back.

It is instructive to recall today — in light of the Giants’ negotiations with Daniel Jones and Saquon Barkley — how thorny things got back then. To this point, there has been no unsavoriness with Jones and Barkley, at least not for public consumption. To this point, we have two players who believe their value to the team is worth more than the team has offered to pay them. To this point, there is nothing to see here.

Saquon Barkley #26 of the New York Giants walks off the field after losing to the Philadelphia Eagles 38-7 in the NFC Divisional Playoff game at Lincoln Financial Field on January 21, 2023 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
Saquon Barkley ran for a career-best 1,312 yards this past season, but the Giants front office has not made it clear how far they are willing to stretch financially to keep him.
Getty Images

Could it get dicey for Jones and/or Barkley? Of course. Agents want to look good by getting the best deal possible, not only for their clients but also as an advertisement to their next clients. Family members often get involved, and we know how biased a parent can be when determining the importance of a child. It seemingly can get to the point of no return before cooler heads prevail or until the player decides to actually return to the team.

It happened with Strahan. And with Umenyiora.

Emotions started percolating with Strahan after his record-breaking 22.5-sack season in 2001. The Giants offered him a seven-year, $58.1 million extension that included a bonus of $17 million with a two-tiered structure not uncommon for bigger deals. It was the kind of deal Strahan’s teammates Tiki Barber, Jason Sehorn and Amani Toomer already had accepted. The proposal would pay Strahan $10 million of the bonus the first year and $7 million before the start of the second year. Although there was no way the Giants would have cut Strahan after only one year — the cap cost would have been extremely prohibitive — Strahan balked at splitting the bonus into Year 2 of the deal.

“It comes down to respect,’’ he said at the time.

Contract talks collapsed. Strahan angrily stated 2002 would be his final season with the Giants, and he accused the team of not trying to win. He predicted that without him, the team lacked the experience and talent it needed to go far. As anyone who knew Strahan back then can attest, he could trend toward the dramatic.

Barber told The Post at the time that Strahan was being greedy for not accepting the two-tiered bonus. Other players chimed in. Head coach Jim Fassel met with Strahan and Barber and told them to pipe down.

New York Giants defensive end Michael Strahan celebrates after sacking Seattle Seahawks quarterback Trent Dilfer.
New York Giants defensive end Michael Strahan celebrates after sacking Seattle Seahawks quarterback Trent Dilfer in 2002.

Eventually, Strahan relented and agreed to the largely unchanged contract offer. After signing the deal, he said, “I love the team. I love these teammates. I love New York City.” Now he is a franchise icon.

Strahan’s contract squabbles were an exchange of pleasantries compared with how Umenyiora and the Giants went at each other. He had 11.5 sacks and an NFL-high 10 forced fumbles in 2010, and wanted to renegotiate the final year of the six-year, $41 million extension he signed in 2005 that covered 2007-12. The Giants said: No, play out your contract.

That did not sit well with Umenyiora, so the Giants allowed Umenyiora’s agent to seek a trade with the price tag of a first-round draft pick. When that didn’t work out, Umenyiora didn’t report to training camp. When he did arrive, he said he could not practice because of a knee issue. He watched his teammates work in the heat while riding a stationary bicycle on the side.

Head coach Tom Coughlin bit his tongue, and tried to offer a positive spin on Umenyiora’s presence. “I was pleased,” Coughlin said. “It’s a good thing. I’m hoping that’s the kind of indication that we’re all looking for.”

Osi Umenyiora forces a fumble against Matt Moore of the Carolina Panthers during the fourth quarter on September 12, 2010.
Osi Umenyiora forces a fumble against Matt Moore of the Carolina Panthers during a game on September 12, 2010.
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Umenyiora insisted general manager Jerry Reese was reneging on a promise for a new deal or a trade. Umenyiora even went so far as to add his name to a federal antitrust lawsuit filed by players against the NFL, stating in a sworn affidavit, “Mr. Reese told me that two years from the start of the 2008 league year, if I was currently playing at a high level, we’d either renegotiate my current contract so that it would be equal to that of the top five defensive ends playing or I would be traded to a team that would do that.”

Eventually, Reese sweetened the pot for Umenyiora, increasing his 2012 base salary from $3.1 million to $6 million while adding a year on the contract to lower Umenyiora’s 2012 salary-cap hit.

As it turned out, 2012 was Umenyiora’s final season with the Giants. In March 2013, he signed a two-year, $8.5 million deal to join the Falcons.

Fast forward to August 2015. Umenyiora showed up at Giants training camp to announce his retirement, signing a one-day contract so he could retire as a member of the franchise.

“For the past three weeks, I’ve been in negotiations with Jerry Reese about this one-day contract,’’ Umenyiora cracked, as laughter followed. “I wanted a two-day contract. Jerry wasn’t having it.’’

Umenyiora later conceded, “I could be a real knucklehead sometimes.’’

Osi Umenyiora #72 of the New York Giants waves to the crowd after a 42-7 win against the Philadelphia Eagles at MetLife Stadium on December 30, 2012 in East Rutherford, New Jersey.
Despite his somewhat acrimonious contract negotiations only a few years before, Osi Umenyiora signed a one-day contract to retire as a member of the Giants.
Getty Images

For his part, Reese has said of all the players he drafted with the Giants, Umenyiora was his favorite.

It’s worth keeping those contract sagas in mind as Jones and Barkley take part in their own financial dances with the Giants.

Pay the man

The Giants have their own financial considerations to consider as they negotiate with Jones, but you can be sure they are keeping one eye on what is about to go down in Philadelphia. After all, the Giants eventually need to figure out a way to upstage the Eagles in the NFC East if they are to continue to take strides in the conference.

Fresh off a superlative performance in a 38-35 loss in Super Bowl LVII, Jalen Hurts is about to get paid. A ton. The days of the Eagles building their roster with the luxury of a low-salaried quarterback are nearing an end.

“Obviously, we want to keep our best players here for the long term — and he’s certainly one of our best players,’’ Eagles general manager Howie Roseman said. “We’ll keep all the contract talks internal, but we’d definitely like to keep Jalen Hurts here long-term.’’

Despite the optimistic talk, you could almost hear Roseman cringe when Eagles head coach Nick Sirianni gushed over his quarterback in the aftermath of the Super Bowl loss to the Chiefs: “You know, you really look at the game, and that was good for the NFL in the sense that the two best quarterbacks in the NFL played against each other on the biggest stage in the biggest lights. And Jalen played great.”

Jalen Hurts reacts after their loss against the Kansas City Chiefs in Super Bowl 57.
Jalen Hurts leaves the field in Arizona after the Eagles’ loss against the Chiefs in Super Bowl 57.

Thrusting Hurts into Mahomes territory means the starting point on a new deal is likely $45 million per year.

“I think we have a good sense of what we need to do here,’’ Roseman said. “We have a little bit of time here, too, to kind of figure it out and get away and discuss that.’’

Hurts has one year remaining on his rookie deal and is scheduled to make $6.7 million in 2023. Clearly, he is not going to play out his contract. If the Eagles are as all-in on Hurts as they appear to be, they will pay him accordingly and the salary-cap ramifications will be a factor in how the franchise moves forward.

It wasn’t all that long ago the Eagles had to make a similar choice when Roseman and the franchise gave Carson Wentz a four-year contract extension worth $128 million — including a whopping $107.9 million guaranteed — in June 2019. Wentz proceeded to nosedive, and was traded to the Colts in February 2021.

“I think each example is on its own,’’ Roseman said, “And you’ve got to look at the individual player, and that’s not to be critical to anyone we’ve given a contract to that hasn’t worked out. But I think when we talk about Jalen, we’re talking about a guy we have tremendous confidence in, a guy that we want to be here for a long time. And so it will be something that will be a priority for us.’’

Asked and answered

Here are two questions that have come up recently that we will attempt to answer as accurately as possible:

What will the Giants do at center next season?

It could go several different ways. The starting center in 2022, Jon Feliciano, is set to be an unrestricted free agent. Backup center Nick Gates is also set to be a free agent. Feliciano started 15 games at center, and Gates started at the position in the other two — in Week 11 against the Cowboys when Feliciano was out due to a neck injury and in Week 18 when most of the starters were given the game off in Philadelphia.

Nick Gates blocks during the third quarter against the Minnesota Vikings.
Nick Gates’ return from a career-threatening leg fracture was inspiring but did not guarantee his return to the team next season.
Charles Wenzelberg/New York Post

Gates, who made a remarkable recovery from a horrific fractured leg injury that nearly ended his career, also was the starting left guard in the second half of the season after he was activated off injured reserve.

Gates, 27, is younger than Feliciano, 31, but it remains to be seen which player is valued more highly by the Giants. It seems unlikely both will be re-signed. There’s also a third option. Though he is a natural guard, Ben Bredeson is well-liked by the coaching staff, which believes he could be a more than serviceable player if he moved over to center.

The Giants are set at kicker with Graham Gano. They do not have a punter on their roster. What are they doing there?

If the season started today…Brian Daboll could be going for it on every fourth down. Jamie Gillan is set to become an unrestricted free agent after playing in 2022 on a one-year deal. He did not have a great debut season with the Giants, but there is definitely a chance Gillan is re-signed considering there is belief inside the building there is room for growth and improvement. Gillan was 18th in the league with an average of 46.8 yards on his 74 punts. He ranked 15th with 26 punts downed inside the 20-yard line. Less encouraging, only one punter in the NFL had more than Gillan’s nine touchbacks. At 25 years old, the lefty-kicking Scottish-born Gillan is a viable option in 2023.

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