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All of Giants’ actions point to picking a quarterback, maybe UNC’s Drake Maye, in the NFL Draft’s first round

All of the Giants’ actions point to GM Joe Schoen trying to draft his next franchise quarterback on Thursday night, on the eve of the franchise’s 100th season, approaching the centennial anniversary of a franchise that was founded in 1925.

North Carolina’s Drake Maye is believed to be the most coveted prize, per sources, which could require an expensive trade up to the No. 3 pick with the New England Patriots.

It’s possible other teams will prevent the Giants from getting their preferred QB, whether they take the player ahead of New York or decline to trade down.

Schoen is preparing for every scenario, and he insists that no one other than he truly knows what the Giants will do with the No. 6 overall pick in the 2024 NFL Draft.

But all roads of the Giants’ offseason lead back to the quarterback position, and the only way not to see the signs would be to ignore them — from being all over USC’s Caleb Williams before they won their way out of the draft’s No. 1 pick, to having Russell Wilson in for a free agent visit in early March, to Schoen’s calls with teams at the top of the draft looking to move up.

If they don’t take one, it won’t be because they didn’t want to or try. Michigan’s J.J. McCarthy and Washington’s Michael Penix Jr. are both names to watch, too, if Maye is selected higher.

Co-owner John Mara said at the NFL Owners Meetings in March that Schoen, Brian Daboll and the Giants’ decision makers “tell me it’s the most talented group [of quarterbacks] to come out in years.”

Mara endorsed taking a QB at No. 6 or trading up if Schoen and Daboll believe it’s worth it.

“If they fall in love with a quarterback and believe that it’s worth pick No. 6 or moving up, I certainly would support that,” he said.

Mara, the conscience of this franchise, even said his continued belief in Daniel Jones is no reason not to welcome in a young arm.

“Why not let them both compete? Let them both compete and let the better man win,” Mara said. “We do have confidence in Daniel. But if you have a chance to bring in another quarterback and your head coach and the general manager have a conviction about him, you go ahead and do it.”

Not to mention Maye has a personal relationship with Eli Manning and has worked with him so much that Maye said at the NFL Combine: “I’ve been following him around.”

The Giants’ travel itinerary in March and April reinforced their dogged search for a new QB. They went all-in on scouting this year’s quarterbacks compared to previous years.

Schoen was a regular presence at college games last fall for all the top quarterbacks, including Williams, the presumptive No. 1 overall pick, and Maye of North Carolina.

This March, Schoen, Daboll, director of player personnel Tim McDonnell, offensive coordinator Mike Kafka, quarterbacks coach Shea Tierney and wide receiver coach Mike Groh all attended the University of Washington’s pro day. And Penix had dinner with the Giants’ contingent there.

The Giants also sent their large contingent to LSU’s Pro Day and stayed late after the workout to gain more time with Tigers QB Jayden Daniels. They traveled to Ann Arbor, Mich., for a private Easter Sunday workout with the Wolverines’ McCarthy. They visited Maye for a private workout.

And they had Maye, McCarthy and Daniels in for top 30 visits, in addition to other QBs projected to go in later rounds, such as Oregon’s Bo Nix and South Carolina’s Spencer Rattler.

One source said Daniels’ top 30 visit with the Giants didn’t go well. So it doesn’t sound like he’d be an option, although that could be a moot point since the Washington Commanders may take him at No. 2.

Penix did not take a top 30 visit to the Giants, which could mean something or nothing.

Mara said in late March that “if it gets to the point where they are starting to zero in on somebody, I might at some point want to spend some time with them, but it’s not necessarily a prerequisite.”

It stuck out that day when Mara was asked if he had met McCarthy, he said: “I have not spent any time with him, no.” Then he smirked and added: “Not yet.”

Schoen, of course, was in the room for Bills GM Brandon Beane’s aggressive two trades up to select franchise QB Josh Allen No. 7 overall in 2018. Now he has the chance to do it himself.

Daboll then was Allen’s offensive coordinator when he blossomed into one of the NFL’s best quarterbacks.

The best way for Daboll to prove himself worthy after a disastrous 2023 would be to improve the Giants’ offense while calling plays — as he is expected to do — and develop a young QB capably for Mara and co-owner Steve Tisch.

With Bill Belichick waiting in free agency, there is a ton of pressure for this regime to rebound.

It isn’t just the Giants’ pre-draft actions that point to a quarterback selection. Their existing depth chart calls for it, and Jones’ contract could be a factor, too.

Their current group is Jones, coming off a second neck injury and a torn right ACL; stopgap backup Drew Lock, whose contract contains playing time incentives; and third-string QB Tommy DeVito.

Schoen and Mara both said they still have confidence in Jones, but when Schoen named DeVito among the reasons he’d be “comfortable” with this group if he didn’t select a QB in this draft, it did pass the smell test.

Jones’ contract, meanwhile, has a fully guaranteed $35.5 million salary this season. None of his 2025 salary is guaranteed after that.

However, if Jones gets hurt in a game this season — or in any workout or practice on the Giants’ premises — he has an $11 million injury guarantee for 2025.

There are $23 million of potential guarantees in Jones’ $30 million scheduled salary for 2025. The Giants can escape $12 million of the guarantees (for skill and cap) simply by cutting or trading Jones before the fifth day of the 2025 NFL league year.

But if Jones gets hurt this season, the Giants would be on the hook for $11 million.

Consider this, too: if the Giants draft a QB high now, they can get out from under any major financial commitment to a quarterback quicker, clearing the way to better build the team.

They would be paying out something in the range of $55 million total to both Jones and Maye in 2024, hypothetically, with the Giants paying out 66% of the rookie contract in year one, per the NFL rookie wage scale.

But then, assuming Jones didn’t get hurt this year — or didn’t play for the Giants at all — the team would be out from under any major guaranteed money owed to a QB for 2025 and beyond.

Could that mean drafting a QB in the first round and cutting or parting ways with Jones sooner than anyone expects?

The NFL Network’s Rich Eisen, after all, said in early March that he’d heard “the Giants are absolutely done with Daniel Jones” and had “buyer’s remorse.” It was no secret early in the offseason that Schoen and Daboll were eager to find a new solution at QB if they could.

And if the Giants accept that the four-year, $160 million extension they gave Jones was a mistake, they can’t double down on it.

Schoen and Daboll obviously would have to improve their on-field product this year sufficiently to retain their jobs and enjoy that future financial flexibility if they stomached an expensive QB room in 2024.

That’s why one of the top wide receivers would fill an obvious need if they don’t get a QB, especially after they let their top offensive weapon, Saquon Barkley, sign with the hated rival Philadelphia Eagles in free agency.

Ohio State’s Marvin Harrison Jr., LSU’s Malik Nabers and Washington’s Rome Odunze round out the class’ top three receivers. Odunze is the most likely of the three to still be on the board at six.

Schoen, for his part, said he has 15 players with first-round grades on the Giants’ board.

He has called teams above the Giants to set the terms of possible trades up. He has spoken to GMs behind the No. 6 pick about potential trades back and has lobbied for calls from the teams behind the Giants’ pick through the media (could he trade back and then take Penix, perhaps?).

If it’s not a quarterback or wide receiver, there are also offensive linemen at the top of this draft like Notre Dame tackle Joe Alt who could help a line that gave up the second-most sacks in NFL history one year ago.

Uncertainty is building league-wide as this draft nears, with so many quarterbacks projected at the top of the class and so much mystery about many of the top selections.

All of the Giants’ actions and intentions, though, point to one position: quarterback. Maye, McCarthy and Penix Jr., in that order, have generated the most smoke connected to the Giants.

But one trusted source definitively told The News two weeks ago: “Maye is the guy.” And even if a trade up has to include the Giants’ 2025 first-round pick, it’s not difficult to see Schoen paying that price.

Because if he and Daboll don’t fix this franchise, someone else could be running the 2025 draft.


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