It was late Monday night, and Daniel Jones’s agents, Brian Murphy and Camron Hahn, were cashed from a day that started with a flight from Indianapolis to New Jersey, was spent mostly on the first floor of the Giants’ practice facility and didn’t engender a ton of optimism that a blockbuster contract was on the horizon. So in that delirium, as they tried to construct one last proposal to swing the momentum, a weird idea arose.

Let’s start drawing pigs.

Hahn bet he could draw a better one than Murphy. Murphy’s resembled a fish with legs. Hahn’s was marginally better—a curly tail actually made it distinguishable as a pig, which was enough to win the impromptu competition. And in the end, their hope was what was underneath, the so-called Lipstick on a Pig Proposal, would be enough to win the day on Tuesday and help get the Giants and Jones to the endgame everyone was looking for.

The truth is, as they’d find out the next morning, after an ill-fated Uber ride into Manhattan led to a short-circuited night of sleep, it wasn’t. But the moment, the unsatisfactory result of it, and the fortitude on the part of everyone to fight through it actually was indicative of how the whole scramble to get the Giants and Jones to renew vows went, four years after New York took the former Duke star No. 6 in the draft.

Some 16 hours after the Giants got a look at Murphy and Hahn’s artwork, Jones agreed to a four-year, $160 million extension that could wind up worth as much as $195 million. It happened despite an 11th-hour agent change, an initial set of meetings that careened right into a dead end, another set in Indianapolis that were up and down, and a bad start to talks at the wire.

That, though, was because from the start, there was very little posturing or pulling punches. Mostly because, in this particular negotiation, there was no time for that.

“That’s the only way this deal worked, is both sides were willing to roll up their sleeves and forget about traditional negotiating tactics, not worry about who’s calling who or whose turn it is to give a proposal, and just work our asses off,” says Murphy, the president of Athletes First. “Because this was the best result for everybody. It was just really good. I was proud of the transparency throughout the process, we were very up front and open with [Giants GM] Joe [Schoen] and his whole team, and they were with us.

“No one hid the fact that we wanted to get this done. It’s the right result, 100 percent.”

And just as the negotiation was unusual, the story behind it was, too.

It took weeks of negotiating and came down to the deadline, but Jones has a new long-term deal to stay in New York

Brad Penner/USA TODAY Sports

So this week, you’ll see some changes in The MMQB, and I’m going to detail those later on Monday. That said, I’ll have a few things for you on the site today, including …

• The inside story of how the Bears-Panthers trade involving the No. 1 pick came together.

• More on the Seahawks’ deal with Geno Smith.

• Some projections on the free-agent market ahead of the tampering window opening.

• The MAQB.

But here, in the MMQB lead, we’re diving deep into a fascinating negotiation between the Giants and a signal-caller who went from having his fifth-year option declined to being reaffirmed as the proud old organization’s franchise quarterback in 10 months time.

This one starts with where Daniel Jones was late last April, coming off an injury-riddled campaign during which he missed six games, posted a passer rating in the 80s for a third straight year, and on his third coach and second general manager. Few batted an eye when that coach, Brian Daboll, and that GM, Schoen, declined to pick up Jones’s fifth-year option for 2023 at a fully guaranteed $22.39 million.

Still, Jones, in the words of one person who was there, was “pissed” when he got the news.

The Giants, for their part, viewed it as a $10 million gamble—in that, if Jones blossomed under Daboll, it’d cost them roughly another $10 million above the option price to franchise him the following March. And the early outward signs after that weren’t great, either.

Through the first couple of weeks of training camp, to the untrained eye, the 25-year-old quarterback struggled, throwing picks and leading an offense that seemed scattershot to onlookers. To those in the organization, though, there was an understanding that in unscripted situations, Giants DC Wink Martindale’s system, as different from convention as the Ravens’ offense Martindale faced off against for years during practice, was always going to have the edge.

What was important at that point, for Daboll and Schoen, was that Jones was handling it the same way he did having his option declined—with motivation and fire. Meanwhile, Daboll was working to fit the offense to the talents of his quarterback, as he had with Josh Allen in Buffalo, and getting Jones and the other 10 guys in the huddle to buy into the idea it’d work.

That led to a turning point in how the new Giants bosses viewed Jones in Week 5. The team was in London, playing the Packers, and down 20–13 with 3:15 left in the third quarter, taking possession at its own 9. Saquon Barkley hurt his shoulder on the first play of the possession and came out of the game, putting the pressure squarely on Jones. The quarterback responded with seven straight completions for 55 yards and three runs for another 22 yards as part of a 15-play, 91-yard game-tying drive.

The Giants that day didn’t just win with Jones. They won because of him, and even his middling final numbers, Schoen and Daboll saw a guy they could build around. The question would be, then, at what cost would they be willing to go forward with that idea.

With Jones’ steady play, it started with Schoen, SVP of football operations and strategy Kevin Abrams, and director of football operations Ed Triggs considering a deal in the range of what Ryan Tannehill got in Tennessee. Then, the Giants made the playoffs, and Kirk Cousins’s contract and Minnesota was seen as a possible comp. After they actually beat Cousins and the Vikings in the playoffs, it became even less predictable where the contract would land.

The circumstance was pretty much unprecedented—a quarterback who had his fifth-year option declined playing well enough to force his team to hit him with a pricy franchise tag.

But that was where the Giants and Jones were when exit meetings took place after the team was ousted by the Eagles in the divisional round. Jones came in for his meeting that week, and the Giants mentioned negotiations on a new contract to him. He asked the Giants to give him a little time, because he was making a change.

Jones and Murphy had met briefly before, at a charity event, and had connections through guys like Kyle Rudolph, Sterling Shepard and David Sills, who’d all played with Jones and were Athletes First clients, so there was some rapport there before January. But it wasn’t quite enough to indicate that Murphy would find himself sitting across from Jones at The W Hotel in Hoboken in late January, explaining how he’d approached the negotiation.

Jones had parted ways with his previous agent and was looking for new representation, which prompted the cross-country trip for Murphy. Murphy explained that, because of the lack of precedent for his situation, getting a deal done before the early-March franchise tag deadline would take nonstop work and a lot of creativity.

Jones hired Athletes First on Feb. 15. Murphy texted Schoen to let him know, and he, Hahn and colleague Andrew Kessler flew to Jersey that day for meetings with the Giants on Jones.

That night, they had dinner at the Chart House, overlooking Manhattan from Weehawken, N.J. Normally, in this sort of situation, there may be a feeling out the night before the real negotiations start. In this case, there was no messing around.

The Giants communicated to the agents that Jones was their guy, and that Daboll, Schoen, and the rest of the organization believed in him. As part of that, absent a long-term deal, they planned to put the franchise tag on Jones. They added they preferred doing a deal, which would allow them to tag Saquon Barkley. The agents responded that the average per year on any long-term deal would have to start with a four, and they weren’t planning on that being 40 flat. The dinner lasted six hours and set the tone for the next two days.

Meetings that Thursday, Feb. 16, in the second-floor executive offices of the Giants’ facility went, in the words of one source, “terrible.” So before leaving the next day, with a lot of ground left to make up, the agents told the Giants they saw one of three scenarios playing out with 18 days left until the tag deadline.

The first was the ideal—that they’d reach a long-term deal. The second was that Jones would sign an offer sheet with another team and play elsewhere. The third was that Jones would play on the $32.4 million franchise tender in 2023, and then, presumably, after contracts for Joe Burrow, Justin Herbert, Jalen Hurts and Lamar Jackson got done, cost a whole lot more to keep in 2024.

The idea was to give the sides something they could agree on, and the Giants agreed that, yes, those were the three scenarios that could play out. The agents then said they’d get something to the Giants shortly after they returned home to California.

Finalizing a deal before the deadline means the Giants can bring back both Barkley and Jones in 2023

Douglas DeFelice/USA TODAY Sports

The 42-page treatise has The Quarterback’s Tale printed on its cover, with the deck going through chart after chart explaining where the quarterback market was, where it was going, and where Jones fit into all of it. The agents directed A.J. Stevens, the former Buccaneers cap man, to let the project take him to whatever conclusion arose from it, and with the help of the agency’s creative team, the packet was ready to be sent to the Giants on Feb. 21.

It came with a jaw-dropping proposal: Jones should get $47 million per year.

That number was $12 million clear of a $35-million-per-year proposal the Giants had made. The knee jerk reaction from the team was We’re gonna pay DJ more than Patrick Mahomes?

Then, for nearly a week, there was silence. Schoen, whose scouts were in draft meetings when the first summit with Jones’s agents took place, had given his department the week off to get a breather before the combine. The agents were working on the sale of Athletes First to MASTRY Ventures, a sale that soft-closed Feb. 25 and was officially done Feb. 27.

The next day, the Tuesday of combine week in Indianapolis, the Giants and Athletes First met, pretty much right out in the open at the JW Marriott. Murphy and Abrams spearheaded the talks, with Triggs, Schoen, Hahn, Kessler and Stevens all participating at points. It lasted for five hours, and enough progress was made that those taking part into the night wound up missing dinner and resolved to pick things up Thursday.

Talks resumed at the Giants’ hotel, the Marriott, next door to the JW, with Murphy presenting the Giants with a handwritten Dear Joe letter. It asked that, despite a still-sizable gulf in the proposals, the sides focus on their areas of agreement. They’d agreed to do a four-year deal. The gap of guarantees and cash flow had shrunk. The Giants had compromised on the idea of getting into the 40s, while the agents had backed off of early triggers to fully guarantee a part of the third year of the deal, giving the Giants some flexibility.

But when Murphy gave Abrams and Triggs the agents’ revised proposal on Thursday, things went sideways again. That night, a few members of the group, with football operations assistant Charles Tisch going in, ate together at Oceanaire, and the Giants promised to have a counterproposal on Friday. That Friday counterproposal went over with the agents as well as the Thursday proposal went with the team.

Schoen, Abrams, Murphy and Hahn met for breakfast Sunday morning at Café Patachou, two blocks from the Giants’ hotel, with the stalemate lingering. Murphy said to the table, Listen, this is the second time we’ve hit the end. He said the first time, they’d laid out the three options, and this time, they should do something similar. So he took a napkin, with Chargers executive JoJo Wooden in the next booth, and scrawled out one-, two-, three- and four-year proposals on a Jones deal.

The one-year deal was $5 million or so over the franchise tag. The two-year deal was around $10 million over what two tags would cost; with the argument being that the cost would lead to savings with other players, with the tag freed up for Barkley and perhaps safety Xavier McKinney in 2024, and potentially on Jones, too, if he outplayed his contract.

Schoen responded, Why don’t you guys fly out to New York?

Murphy and Hahn agreed, and left Indy on Monday morning to fly to Newark.

The first sign of trouble was where the Giants put the agents when they arrived at the facility on Monday—on the first floor, in the cafeteria, with office space provided for them in the tight end meeting room, rather on the second floor where their February meetings had taken place.

The second sign was more overt. The Giants didn’t like the Napkin Proposal.

Monday’s meetings, accordingly, didn’t go well. Both sides were dug in on their position.

The agents saw the Giants’ putting them in the tight end room as an ode to Rudolph. The team looked at it as a decision made of convenience, since it was close to the cafeteria. Either way, that’s where the agents found themselves after Schoen ordered burgers and milkshakes for everyone for dinner. There were less than 24 hours left. And that’s where the Makeup on a Pig proposal came to life.

The agents saw the pig as the $40-million-per-year base value of the contract, a number they’d earlier said they wouldn’t go down to, but would now compromise on. The makeup, they decided, would be the upside in the contract via a complex package of incentives.

Earlier in the negotiation, the Giants had offered a generous incentive package, one Jones’s side had ignored because the gap between the sides was still big and the agents were focused on getting the quarterback a deal with hard dollars in it. The Makeup on a Pig proposal would reintroduce the idea, through a structure of incentives based on what the Giants had offered, and modeled after an incentive setup Matthew Hasselbeck got from the Seahawks after the Packers traded him to Seattle in 2001.

The Giants responded that it was something they could work with, suggested everyone get some sleep so they could restart talks early Tuesday morning, and put Murphy and Hahn in an Uber headed back to their hotel in Hoboken just after midnight. Which all sounded great until Murphy and Hahn started to pay attention to where the Uber was taking them.

That didn’t happen until the car was actually in the Lincoln Tunnel. Because of that, an Uber ride that should’ve been maybe half an hour turned into a 90-minute (or so) ordeal, and Murphy and Hahn didn’t get back to their hotel until 1:30 a.m., with the next meeting set for 8 a.m. and more bad news coming.

When Schoen’s response to the Makeup on a Pig Proposal was similar to his reaction to the Napkin Proposal on Tuesday morning, Murphy threw his hands up and cracked, What happens when you go home at night? Does your wife shoot down these deals?

Everyone laughed. But the clock was ticking, and no deal was in sight.

Jones was working out at the facility, and popped into the tight end room at around 10:30 a.m. for an update. His agents told him they and the team were at a very real impasse, and suggested he go up and tell Schoen, Abrams and Triggs where his head was. Jones did that, telling those guys he appreciated everyone’s hard work, and really hoped they could find some middle ground.

Jones then called owner John Mara, with Schoen’s blessing, to tell him that he was locked in to being the Giants’ quarterback, be it on a long-term deal or the tag, and that he wasn’t going to take anything personally either way, just as he hadn’t over the year previous.

Around 2 p.m., when they met downstairs again, Murphy, Kessler and Hahn intimated that since the Napkin and Makeup proposals hadn’t worked, that Giants send them some ideas. Schoen did, and that didn’t move the needle much. So right after 3 p.m., as they convened in the tight end room, with Jones present, the suggestion came that they revisit the incentives again, which might make the other elements of the deal more workable.

Murphy went to his phone and emailed the Giants’ brass how he saw the incentives, then went to a whiteboard to draw it up for them. Basically, he said, he felt like Jones could be rewarded for finishing top-15, top-10 and top-five in passing yards, touchdown passes, total touchdowns and passer rating, as well as making and advancing in the playoffs, with incentives that would double up the next year as escalators.

The key was that Jones could add up to $35 million to his contract, with $63 million available in incentives—meaning he only had to hit a little over half of them to max out his contract, with the idea being that if Jones was playing like a top-10 quarterback, he’d be paid more like one, as the market promised to change in the months to follow with deals for Burrow, Hurts, Herbert and Jackson.

The interesting twist here is once the sides got in on the incentives, the bigger-picture pieces of the deal fell into place fast. The Giants agreed to fully guarantee the first two years of the deal, with the agents again yielding on the idea of a part of the third season vesting as fully guaranteed a year early. The agents got Jones’s two-year average over $40 million, with $82 million due between 2023 and ’24, while the team won on having a three-year average under $40 million per (the base value of the deal is $112.5 million from 2023–25).

With five minutes left until the 4 p.m. ET deadline, the Giants’ group, having left the room for a minute to discuss the final swing at an agreement, re-entered the room to tell Jones himself and his agents, waiting inside, that they had a deal. The one problem was that, because of the clock, there was still no contract, and the finer points of the incentives had to be worked out.

On that, at 3:56 p.m., Schoen cracked, Daniel, I trust you. Murph, I don’t trust you.

Schoen suggested they shake on the deal, absent a real contract. Murphy responded that a pinky swear and a hug would be better. So they locked pinkies, and hugged, and the deal was agreed to with four minutes to spare.

As that was happening, Triggs raced back upstairs. On his computer, he had two emails ready and addressed to the league office.

One was to officially put the franchise tag on Jones. The other was to franchise Barkley.

Triggs got there in time and hit send on the Barkley email.

With time to reflect now, Murphy’s mind immediately goes to the relationship part of it. Though he’d never done a negotiation like this with Schoen, and in some ways really with anyone, the two had known each other going back to when the Giants GM was with the Dolphins before Schoen’s five-year run as Bills assistant GM.

And with some uncharted territory covered on this one, that wound up mattering.

“One thing I’ll remember about this process, we didn’t go in there with ordinary negotiating tactics or strategy, because that wouldn’t have worked,” he says. “We didn’t have enough time. So we just threw all that out the window and did some creative things, the Napkin Proposal, the Makeup on the Pig Proposal, and never really took anything personally. We tried to leverage our great relationship with the Giants in a good way. I feel like we worked together.”

Murphy then laughed, “Now, certainly there were times when they’d get mad at us, and I’d go in to give Joe a hug or a shoulder rub to make sure he was O.K. But both sides wanted it to happen, we weren’t adversarial. It got tense at times, but we realized we were trying to do what’s best for the Giants and what’s best for the Giants is what’s best for DJ.”

To that end, when the meetings were over, and the sides were ready to celebrate the conclusion of three-and-a-half hard weeks of negotiation, Jones’s focus had already turned to his newly tagged close friend.

He wanted to know how the team would get a deal done with Barkley.

That conversation happened right there in the tight end room, on the first floor.

His agents, it turned out, never made it back upstairs. In the end, really, there was no need, or time, for those sorts of formalities in the Jones negotiation.

And if you don’t believe that, Murphy and Hahn have some artwork to prove it.