Is a jersey number ever worth a quarter-million dollars?
That’s the question New York Giants rookie edge defender Kayvon Thibodeaux is asking himself this week. After being selected fifth-overall in the 2022 NFL Draft, the Oregon product is realizing that the jersey number he wants — No. 5 — won’t come cheap.
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Giants kicker Graham Gano currently wears the No. 5, and it sounds like he’s charging Thibodeaux $250,000 for it.
“This is real now,” Thibodeaux said, per Jordan Raanan of ESPN. “We’re talking real numbers. When you tell [someone] 250, I don’t know what 250 means. You forget all the zeros behind it.”
Thibodeaux wore the No. 5 throughout his college career at Oregon, but he wore No. 8 in high school at Oaks Christian in Los Angeles. That number would probably be even more expensive, considering it belongs to starting quarterback Daniel Jones on the Giants.
Thibodeaux, 21, has yet to sign his rookie contract but Spotrac projects that it will be a $31.4 million deal with a fifth-year option and a $20 million signing bonus. He may not have that money yet, but he probably made a decent amount through NIL endorsements in college. He mentioned that during a recent interview with the New York Post when asked how he’ll spend the money from his signing bonus.
“The greatest part, we had NIL [name, image and likeness right in the NCAA],” Thibodeaux told the Post, “so I don’t feel that urge to hurry up and buy something, but it’ll probably be once I move out here, get settled in.”
Thibodeaux is lucky to have gone to college during the NIL era and to have that flexibility. It’s also worth noting that this wouldn’t even be a conversation a couple of years ago, because the NFL did not allow defensive players to wear single-digit numbers until it loosened those restrictions last season.
Giants WR Comes to Graham Gano’s Defense
It’s not unusual for a veteran to charge money for a jersey number that a rookie wants, but the power dynamic is certainly flipped on its head when the veteran is a kicker and the rookie is a top-five draft pick with the potential to be a star pass rusher.
With Gano facing a lot of criticism among Giants fans for wanting so much money, wide receiver Alex Bachman came out in support of the embattled kicker.
“Respectfully, if you are a 12 year vet, former pro bowler, and a major record holder for the last 3 teams you’ve played for, you can wear whatever number you want,” Bachman wrote on Twitter. “Time y’all put more respect on that mans name.”
Gano, 35, started his career with Washington, then became a Pro Bowler with the Carolina Panthers. He has spent the past two seasons with the New York Giants, converting 92.3 percent of his field-goal attempts and 95.0 percent of his extra-point attempts. At one point last year, he had made 37 consecutive field goals, which was the fourth longest streak in NFL history.
A Cautionary Tale From Jeff Feagles
This isn’t the first time a Giants specialist has tried to cash in on his jersey number. In fact, former Giants punter Jeff Feagles did it two years in a row.
Feagles joined the Giants in 2003 and wore the number 10 that season. The next year, he gave the number to then-rookie quarterback Eli Manning in exchange for a Florida vacation and switched to No. 17, according to the New York Post.
The following offseason, the Giants acquired wide receiver Plaxico Burress. Feagles agreed to give Burress the No. 17 on the condition that Burress would pay for his outdoor kitchen, but that ended up being a mistake.
“I never got paid for it,” Feagles told the New York Post in 2010. “I asked [Burress] for it. Every time I went to (agent Drew Rosenhaus) he said, ‘That’s between you and Plax.’ Bottom line, I never got paid. He basically stole my number.”