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Giants fans think Saquon Barkley, team will reach long-term deal ... and I agree

Giants fans are optimistic about contract negotiations

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

Seventy-two percent of New York Giants fans who voted in this week’s ‘SB Nation Reacts’ poll believe that the Saquon Barkley contract saga will end with the Giants and Barkley agreeing to a long-term contract before the July 17 deadline.

Only 1% believe Barkley will sit out the season rather than sign the franchise tag and play should a long-term deal not be reached.

Perhaps the most common-sense comment in the initial poll story, or at least the one that hews most closely to how I feel about the ultimate outcome, is this one from ‘fansince 64’.

“Both sides have good reason to work something out so, in the end they figure something out and move on from there.”

I do believe the best outcome for both sides is a long-term deal. Let’s talk about the reasons why.

From Barkley’s side

I think sticking with the Giants is the best thing Barkley could do, both for his wallet and his career. And I think he and his agent, Kim Miale, know it.

The outside impression has long been that Barkley and Miale screwed this up, that they should have taken one of the offers previously made by the Giants — reported to have average annual values of $12.5 million or more.

Barkley has termed those reports “misleading.”

Maybe the annual dollar figures in those reports are correct. Maybe they aren’t. What we don’t know is the proposed contract structure — we don’t know how much guaranteed money the Giants have offered.

Remember what Barkley said last Sunday:

“As I have previously stated I am not looking to set any contract records. I’m not demanding to be the highest-paid player at my position. I understand the market. My goal is just to be compensated respectfully based on my contributions to the team on the field and in the locker room.”

The big question in getting a deal done is what is Barkley’s definition of “respect,” and how closely that aligns with the Giants’ definition.

Back to Miale and Barkley, though. You may believe they made a mistake by not accepting one of the offers previously made by the Giants. Maybe yes. Maybe no. One thing I do know, though is that Miale and her partners at Roc Nation do have a pretty good idea of what Barkley would be worth if he were to hit the open market.

And I think they know that there is more ‘respect’ for Barkley in the Giants’ bank vault than anywhere else.

They know that two other big-name backs — Josh Jacobs and Tony Pollard — were also tagged this offseason. They know the one who did sign — Miles Sanders — got an average annual value of $6.35 million.

They know that the market for recently released running back Dalvin Cook is expected to top out at $9 million.

They can do the math. I think they understand that the Giants have already offered more, in terms of average annual value, than anyone else is going to.

Barkley and Miale will squeeze every ounce of ‘respect’ they can out of the Giants in terms of guaranteed money and contract length. I can’t blame them.

I have said I think three years and $39 million with the first two years ($26 million) guaranteed is a baseline for a deal. Maybe Barkley can get a fourth year and a little more guaranteed money from the Giants. Maybe. I don’t think, though, that they are getting that anywhere else.

From the Giants’ side

I actually believe this is far more complicated from the organization’s side. From Barkley’s side it is really about squeezing the best deal out of the Giants that they possibly can, and if it takes going down to the 11th hour then so be it.

The reality is that the Giants need Barkley’s talent for the next couple of years.

The Giants, rightly, prioritized getting quarterback Daniel Jones to sign on the dotted line this season over Barkley. Quarterback is more important than running back, that is simply an NFL fact of life.

Jones’ deal is four years, $160 million — on paper. Look at the reality, though, and it is only a two-year deal. There is no guaranteed salary in the third and fourth years.

The Giants didn’t give Jones that two-year window to prove 2022 wasn’t a mirage with the intent of taking away his best weapon and making it less likely he would succeed.

The Giants won more games in 2022 than first-year GM Joe Schoen and head coach Brian Daboll could possibly have expected, including winning a playoff game. Schoen admitted to me during the offseason that when he took the Giants’ job in the winter of 2022 he didn’t expect to be signing Jones to a long-term contract.

Here we are, though. Jones earned the right to stay. The Giants exceeded expectations. Signing Jones, trading for 31-year-old Darren Waller, and spending big on linebacker Bobby Okereke have all raised expectations for 2023.

The Giants are not in a teardown, which is where they might have thought they would be entering this season. They are in a ‘let’s see how far we can go with this core’ phase.

Barkley is part of that core, and the Giants aren’t going to see what Jones can be — what they can be — without Barkley for at least the next couple of seasons.

The Giants, of course, could play hardball with Barkley and get those two seasons out of him by using the franchise tag this year and next. They have that leverage. Truth be told, I believe that might even be what Schoen would like to do. He comes from a background that doesn’t place a high value on running backs and has expressed doubt about the wisdom of selecting one in Round 1 of the draft.

Schoen is smart, though, and I think he knows that hardball isn’t the best play here. Compromise is.

This is what Ian Rapoport said a few days ago:

“I think the stance from the Giants has been very clear. This is a guy they want to be a member of their team for a very long time. Saquon’s stance has been the same. There is room there for a deal.”

Assistant GM Brandon Brown said on Tuesday that Barkley “knows how I feel about him, he knows how we feel about him collectively.”

What I believe the Giants also know is that they not only want Barkley, but they want a Barkley who feels valued and respected. It is simply human nature that if you don’t feel valued or respected you aren’t always going to perform at your best, even unintentionally.

Schoen also knows that co-owner John Mara loves Barkley and wants him with the Giants for years to come. He has been clear about that. What has been unsaid, but is also clear, is that Mara did not want to see Odell Beckham Jr. leave the Giants and certainly does not want to lose a second straight marquee star.

Schoen also knows that if Barkley holds out into training camp or beyond, plays unhappily on the tag, or ends up somehow forcing his way to another team that he risks both hurting the product on the field and alienating players in a locker room that loves and respects Barkley.

“I can’t visualize him in another jersey,” Sterling Shepard said during mandatory minicamp. “That’s my best friend. Obviously, I want him here.”

There are a lot of players who feel the same way. Schoen knows that alienating — or at worst, losing — Barkley is not going to play well in the locker room.

All of this against a backdrop where Schoen is still trying to clean up the salary cap mess he was handed when he took the job. He can’t recklessly overspend on Barkley, throwing the team’s salary cap out of whack and hamstringing the Giants with a deal that is too long and too expensive in the event Barkley suffers more injuries or begins to decline.

So, it isn’t an easy deal to get done. Still, it would be better for both sides if it did.

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