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Here’s how a Saquon Barkley contract extension could look

Will the team and running back come to a long-term agreement?

NFC Wild Card Playoffs - New York Giants v Minnesota Vikings
Saquon Barkley
Photo by David Berding/Getty Images

The biggest story of the New York Giants’ offseason right now is the contract standoff with Saquon Barkley. Although GM Joe Schoen has checked in with Barkley, it doesn’t appear that the two sides are close to any sort of agreement. It seems that Barkley and his agent, Kim Miale, miscalculated his value on the market and are now trying to save face (and money).

Still, Barkley can make a combined $22 million on the franchise tag over the next two seasons if the Giants choose that route. Therefore, according to former agent Joel Corry, any sort of extension would need to come with at least that amount guaranteed in 2023-24. Otherwise, Barkley would just play on the tag. On the flip side, the Giants could choose to allow Barkley to play on the tag for the next two years and then let him walk.

From the Giants’ end, it appears that they have a hard “walk-away” number with Barkley. Schoen reportedly offered over $12 million per year during the season, which Barkley declined. That offer is no longer on the table, according to Schoen; Corry felt that the step was unusual if the Giants are actually intent on coming to an agreement with their running back.

With all this being said, finding common ground between team and player could be quite difficult. Still, let’s go through a few possible contract structures and discuss the pros and cons.

Barkley’s demands

Going by Corry’s logic, the kind of deal Barkley would probably accept at this point would need to have at least $13 million per year in average annual value with more than $22 million guaranteed over the first two seasons. That would likely mean a three-year, $39 million or four-year, $52 million deal.

Here is a sample three-year structure.

Saquon Barkley three-year contract proposal

Year Age Base Salary Prorated Bonus Workout Bonus Per Game Roster Bonus Guaranteed Salary Cap Number Dead Money Cap Savings
Year Age Base Salary Prorated Bonus Workout Bonus Per Game Roster Bonus Guaranteed Salary Cap Number Dead Money Cap Savings
2023 26 $3,000,000 $3,000,000 $500,000 $0 $3,000,000 $6,500,000 $23,500,000 -$17,000,000
2024 27 $8,500,000 $3,000,000 $500,000 $1,000,000 $8,500,000 $13,000,000 $17,500,000 -$4,500,000
2025 28 $12,000,000 $3,000,000 $500,000 $1,000,000 $0 $16,500,000 $6,000,000 $10,500,000
2026 29 Void $3,000,000 Void Void Void $3,000,000 Void Void
Saquon Barkley three-year contract

The reasoning here is fairly simple. There is $23.5 million guaranteed: a $12 million signing bonus and $11.5 million in base salary over the first two years. Barkley would receive $15 million at signing, which is more than the $10.091 million he is due on the franchise tag, and he’d get another $8.5 million in fully-guaranteed salary in 2023. This insures him against an injury that could prevent him from receiving the franchise tag next season.

Realistically, this is a two-year deal with an option for a third. The $16.5 million cap hit in the third year is steep, but if Barkley is still playing well, the Giants could convert some of the $12 million base salary into a bonus, add some more dead cap in the void year, and keep him around. They could also add more void years to lower each year’s dead cap charge. Barkley could finish out the contract and be a Giant through his age-28 season.

The per-game roster bonuses (listed in total as on Over the Cap, not as a prorated per-game amount) in the second and third years are to give slight insurance against injury. The terms of the bonus would specifically state that it applies to each game in which Barkley is on the active roster. Therefore, if he stayed healthy, he could earn an extra $1 million in 2024-25.

A four-year deal would be similar, only it would likely eliminate the need for a void year, at least in the initial structure.

Saquon Barkley four-year contract proposal

Year Age Base Salary Prorated Bonus Roster Bonus Per Game Roster Bonus Workout Bonus Guaranteed Salary Cap Number Dead Money Cap Savings
Year Age Base Salary Prorated Bonus Roster Bonus Per Game Roster Bonus Workout Bonus Guaranteed Salary Cap Number Dead Money Cap Savings
2023 26 $3,000,000 $3,000,000 $0 $0 $500,000 $3,000,000 $6,500,000 $24,000,000 -$17,500,000
2024 27 $9,000,000 $3,000,000 $0 $500,000 $500,000 $9,000,000 $13,000,000 $18,000,000 -$5,000,000
2025 28 $9,000,000 $3,000,000 $0 $1,000,000 $500,000 $0 $13,500,000 $6,000,000 $7,500,000
2026 29 $8,250,000 $3,000,000 $6,250,000 $1,000,000 $500,000 $0 $19,000,000 $3,000,000 $16,000,000
Saquon Barkley four-year contract structure

In this scenario, Barkley receives the same $12 million signing bonus with a slightly higher $12 million in salary guarantees over the first two years. There is no remaining base salary guarantee after the second season. However, the $13.5 million third-year cap hit makes it more likely that Barkley will remain on the roster through his age-28.

The fourth year acts almost in lieu of a void year; the only difference is that due to the roster bonus, which usually comes due before the free agency period, the Giants have to make a quick decision about whether to keep Barkley or not. This gives him the potential to hit free agency earlier rather than being at the Giants’ mercy over if and when he gets cut.

I do not see any scenario where the Giants give Barkley a four-year deal and commensurately higher guarantees. Realistically, the advantage of the four-year structure over the three with a void year is minimal, at least on Barkley’s end.

Option 2: Giants’ limit

The Giants’ current number is likely less than the $12 million per year that they initially offered. Assuming it was a three-year offer with the reported 60% guarantee, that would come to $21.6 million in guarantees.

The Giants would probably prefer a three-year, $30 million contract with incentives that could possibly get him up to $13 million per season.

Saquon Barkley three-year contract proposal, Giants’ perspective

Year Age Base Salary Prorated Bonus Workout Bonus Per Game Roster Bonus Guaranteed Salary Cap Number Dead Money Cap Savings
Year Age Base Salary Prorated Bonus Workout Bonus Per Game Roster Bonus Guaranteed Salary Cap Number Dead Money Cap Savings
2023 26 $2,500,000 $3,000,000 $500,000 $0 $2,500,000 $6,000,000 $18,000,000 -$12,000,000
2024 27 $6,500,000 $3,000,000 $500,000 $1,000,000 $6,500,000 $11,000,000 $12,500,000 -$1,500,000
2025 28 $8,500,000 $3,000,000 $500,000 $1,000,000 $0 $13,000,000 $3,000,000 $10,000,000
Saquon Barkley three-year contract proposal, Giants’ perspective

Essentially, this is a two-year, $18 million deal, which is less than Barkley can get on the back-to-back franchise tags. On the flip side, it does give him a guarantee against injury, and the $11.5 million due at signing is somewhat more than the $10.091 million franchise tag.

The Giants could potentially add up to $3 million in incentives to each year of the deal, such as targets for rush yardage, rush touchdowns, and Pro Bowl or All-Pro selections. That would bring the total value of the contract to a maximum of $39 million, or $13 million per year.

However, according to Corry, Barkley is highly unlikely to accept any such deal. He can make more than that over the next two years just by playing on the tag.

Middle ground?

It is worthwhile for both sides to realize that they have something to lose by letting the tag play out. Barkley may think that he has $22 million guaranteed over the next two seasons, but the truth is that there is no guarantee he will stay healthy again.

Furthermore, the Giants could choose to forgo the second franchise tag of $12 million and simply let Barkley walk for a compensatory pick. That is not likely considering that he accounted for 29% of the team’s yards a year ago, but Schoen could follow the policy that it’s better to let a player go a year early than a year late. Such is the ruthless business side of the matter.

From the Giants’ end, playing hardball with Barkley could lower the morale of other players. Sure, the team paid Daniel Jones and Dexter Lawrence, but what message does it send the rest of the players when the general manager is merciless with a team leader? There is a human side to the matter, too.

Additionally, signing Barkley to a contract extension gives the Giants more cap maneuverability, both this year and possibly next, as well. Even if the team wants to keep him around for only two more years, being able to spread out the cap hit over three or even four seasons is smart business.

Realistically, Barkley cannot expect that much more than $22 million guaranteed over the next two seasons. That is the number he’s working with. That’s why the contracts I proposed had roughly $24 million in guarantees — $12 million over each of the next two years.

One compromise I could see happening is the Giants giving Barkley more guaranteed money with a lower average annual value. The Giants’ previously-reported offer would have come with $21.6 million guaranteed. Barkley’s starting point is $22 million, provided Corry is correct. Giving him a three-year, $30 million deal with $20 million guaranteed and some incentives could possibly tip the scales for him.

However, that does not seem to happen in the NFL nowadays. A 67% guarantee is higher than the Giants were willing to give. Meanwhile, Barkley himself seems set on the higher average annual value, at least to save face.

Ultimately, I believe that the Giants have a lot of leverage in this situation. As valuable as Barkley is, this year’s free agency period, especially Miles Sanders’ $6.35 million average annual value, showed that he is unlikely to command anywhere close to the money he seeks on the open market. After they misread the market, it might behoove Barkley and his agent to salvage what they can rather than risk the possibility that the Giants will let him walk after the 2023 season.

My gut instinct is that Barkley will play on the tag in 2023. However, deadlines spur action, and in this case, the deadline for an extension is July 17. There’s plenty of time left.