The biggest remaining piece of business for the New York Giants this offseason is the Saquon Barkley contract situation. Will this drama end with a long-term deal for the star running back, or with Barkley having to sign the franchise tag to play in 2023?
What we know
During the bye week in the middle of the 2022 season, Barkley turned down a contract offer that would have paid him more than $12 million annually. With no deal having been reached, the Giants placed the franchise tag, a $10.091 million value, on Barkley this offseason.
GM Joe Schoen said that after the Giants used the franchise tag the offer that was made last season was no longer on the table. Schoen said after the 2023 NFL Draft that the Giants and Barkley’s representatives were talking, but that there was no contract offer on the table at that point.
The deadline for a long-term deal to be reached is July 17. If no deal is reached by then, Barkley will have no choice but to sign the tag if he intends to play in 2023.
Is there anything new?
According to Bob Brookover of NJ.com, the Giants offered Barkley a multi-year deal with a base annual average value of $13 million and a chance with incentives to reach $14 million. Brookover says Barkley also turned that down.
With speculation floating around on Twitter about that reporting Barkley’s agent, Kim Miale, tweeted that it was “not true.”
If it is true, that would be stunning. Barkley said at the end of the season that he wasn’t intent on resetting the running back market, led by the $16 million per year made by Christian McCaffrey of the San Francisco 49ers.
“I’m not really too concerned about resetting any markets or anything like that,” Barkley said. “I’m realistic.”
Is he really, though? McCaffrey at $16.015 million and Alvin Kamara at $15 million are the only backs in the league who make more than $12 million annually. Dalvin Cook, Derrick Henry, Nick Chubb and Joe Mixon make $12-12.6 million.
Do Barkley and Miale really believe he deserves more than those four players? Especially in a market where Josh Jacobs and Tony Pollard were also tagged, and Miles Sanders, coming off a season where he gained 1,249 yards rushing, signed with the Carolina Panthers for four years and $25.4 million, $6.35 million per year.
Austin Ekeler wanted a big-money deal from the Los Angeles Chargers. He hasn’t gotten it, did get permission to seek a trade, and has thus far found no takers.
The common narrative is that Barkley and Miale misread misread the market or overplayed. Considering what we know, it is difficult not to buy into that.
During a recent appearance on the ‘Valentine’s Views’ podcast, Mike Garafolo of NFL Network said the Giants had been “fair” with Barkley.
“Relative to the running back market, which you saw what free agents got, Miles Sanders came in a $6 million a year. I’m not saying that Miles Sanders is Saquon Barkley or comparable, but they’re offering double that, they’re in the 12s,” Garafolo said. “The tag is at 10, so it’s a healthy raise over the tag. I don’t know how much higher they’d be willing to go. I don’t know how much higher I would tell them to go. I think it’s a fair deal.”
Where do things go from here?
That conversation I had with Garafolo came nearly a month ago.
My question at this point is whether the Giants, with the deadline for Barkley to sign an extension inching closer each day, are still willing to put an offer of $12 million or more on the table?
I proposed to a number of former NFL executives the idea that the Giants would simply wait Barkley out until he and Miale came back with lowered expectations. I suggested the idea of a three-year, $30 million offer from the Giants with incentives that might get Barkley to $13 million if he reached them.
One thought that was “in the ballpark.”
Another thought Barkley might still reach $12 million in average annual value, but admitted that the franchise tag gives the Giants the hammer in this negotiation.
“He’s [Barkley] not walking. He’s under a franchise tag and he’ll play for $10. million under that if they can’t do a long-term deal — and they can franchise him again for a 20 percent raise. He’s smarter than Le’Veon Bell, hopefully, who never made up the money he missed by sitting out a year in Pitt.”
A third also felt the Giants have the upper hand.
“The Giants are under no pressure to give in to any demands so yes, I’d wait it out if I was on their end. If they can get cap relief, that’s a good thing, but the market is really what they are willing to pay, not necessarily what others HAVE paid.”
According to the New York Post, Barkley has backed himself into a situation where he might be lucky to reach my proposed 3/30 threshold.
One prominent player agent told The Post turning down an offer in the $12 million-$13 million a year range was “dumb” as long as the structure was fair — about 60 percent in guaranteed money. The agent believes the framework for a market-value Barkley deal should now average around $8 million or $9 million per year and that a three-year, $30 million package — with a guarantee of about $18 million — would be “pretty rich.’’
Pat Traina also pointed to the fact that the Giants could tag Barkley again in 2024 as another reason the running back does not have leverage.
Here’s where it becomes a dangerous game for Barkley, who barring a new deal reached by the July 17 deadline idea will end up playing on the one-year franchise tag paying a guaranteed $10.1 million once it’s signed.
If he thinks the Giants won’t be able to franchise him again because they’ll have players like safety Xavier McKinney, defensive lineman Leonard Williams, and cornerback Adoree’ Jackson all in line for new deals and that there will be no way of the Giants getting all these guys re-signed in time to where a second franchise tag placed on Barkley is a given, then think again.
First, the Giants are unlikely to extend Jackson on a new deal. Second, extending Williams could depend on how well he bounced back from the first significant injuries that cost him playing time. And the same can be said of McKinney, who continues to rehab a broken hand suffered last year at the bye.
In other words, to assume the Giants will prioritize franchising any one of those three over Barkley is not only selling the running back short, it’s the type of gamble that’s completely out of their control, thereby making it dangerous for Barkley to assume that he’ll finally get the payday he wants, even if it comes from another team.
The Giants could use the salary cap relief they could get in 2023 by extending Barkley, but they have other ways to gain some cap space. I discussed on Saturday why they might not want to extend the contracts of Leonard Williams and Adoree’ Jackson. They could extend the contracts of placekicker Graham Gano and quarterback Tyrod Taylor. They could release Darnay Holmes.
Point is, the Giants have options. They can wait for Barkley’s price to come down. If the running back wants to play football in 2023, Schoen knows it will have to be for the Giants.
It would be best for Barkley to get a long-term deal done. At this point, I agree with the sentiment that he will likely have to take less than he wanted to make that happen.