New York Giants’ star running back Saquon Barkley knows another offseason of uncertainty is coming. He is playing this season on the one-year franchise tag, and that will end after Sunday’s season finale against the Philadelphia Eagles.
A second straight offseason of wondering if Barkley and the Giants will reach a long-term deal, if the Giants will let him head to free agency or if they will try to franchise tag him again is about to begin.
Barkley, who has always said and continues to say he would like to spend his entire career with the Giants, knows Sunday’s game at MetLife Stadium could be his last one as part of the home team.
He said Wednesday, when he was named winner of the George Young Good Guy Award by media covering the team, that he doesn’t think about a Giants-less future. But, he knows it could be coming.
“Obviously, that’s a possibility. A lot of that’s out of my control. So, for me, I kind of just try to keep the main thing, the main thing,” he said. “Like I said, the biggest thing is this locker room, and this team is going to be completely different next year. So, cherish the moments and go out there and try to go off on a high note.”
Barkley said he has “no idea” what the Giants are thinking or what will happen beginning Monday, when his reps and the Giants could once again begin contract discussions.
“I’ve mentioned before that I wanted to be a Giant for life. That was a goal of mine when I got drafted. I wanted to leave a legacy here. But it’s out of my control. I truly have no say,” he said. “It’s really up to those guys upstairs, to [general manager] Joe [Schoen] and all those guys. They’ve got to do what’s best for the team and whatever they feel like is best for us, for the team, then they’re going to make the decision. But me sitting here saying ‘I want to be a Giant for life’ like I did last year, it doesn’t help, it doesn’t hurt. So, I’ll just leave that up to those guys.”
Saquon Barkley: “I just want something that’s fair and that makes sense. That’s really it. … if it’s not here, hopefully it’s some other place.”— Charlotte Carroll (@charlottecrrll) January 3, 2024
Barkley earlier reiterated that he wanted to be a Giant for life #giants pic.twitter.com/7rvtqyrAUZ
Barkley and the Giants reportedly came within less than $2 million in average annual value and guaranteed money of reaching a multi-year deal last season. There is no telling at this point whether the Giants will be willing to offer Barkley a similar multi-year deal this time around.
“I just want something that’s fair, and that makes sense,” Barkley said. “I think I was open and honest about that last year, and I still stick by that. But like I said, I get it’s a business and if it’s not here, hopefully it’s some other place.”
The case for keeping Barkley
Maybe he isn’t quite what he once was, but Barkley is still the Giants’ best offensive player. He will still be only 27 years old next season. Maybe the Giants can be successful with a running back by committee, but I’m not sure any of those committee members are currently on the roster.
Daniel Jones would certainly love to be able to hand the ball to Barkley next season. If the Giants draft a young quarterback and look toward a post-Jones era, being able to give the ball or throw the ball to Barkley won’t exactly be a bad thing for that quarterback’s development.
At the right numbers, an argument can be made that a deal tying the Giants to Barkley for two seasons of guaranteed money makes sense.
The case for letting Barkley go
In all honesty, while he is still very good and could post the fourth 1,000-yard rushing season of his career with a good game on Sunday, the wear and tear of more than 1,400 NFL touches and the multiple leg injuries he has suffered have probably taken a bit of the magic out of Barkley’s legs.
He has probably already played his best football.
There is plenty of evidence that you can have a successful running game without a star running back. Maybe the Giants would be better off to use money that would be allocated to Barkley on offensive line help, on a No. 1 wide receiver, on another pass rusher.
Barkley is curious about his value on the open market. Though, if recent history holds true he would be disappointed by what he finds.
“Tt wouldn’t be more of just seeing what the market would bring. I’m confident in myself that I feel like if I did come to a situation where I did hit the open market, I would be able to show what I would be able to bring to another team. I also want to continue to show what I’m able to bring to this team, too,” he said.
“Does a fresh start cross my mind? I guess anybody when you look at the season, the way it went, I feel like everybody would want a fresh start. Not just saying somewhere else, but just a clean slate. That’s how I look at it to be honest. So, if I did hit the open market, that was God’s plan for me to get another opportunity and to continue to try to create a legacy for myself with my football career.”
Barkley knows the clock is ticking after six years of taking an NFL pounding, but he still believes there is a big payday out there for him.
“No, I don’t think it’s too late. I don’t live with that mindset. I don’t live with that thought proces,” he said. “I do know that if I’m going to strike, I have to do it now. This is probably my last opportunity to get a second deal. After that, the way they view running backs and the way they treat running backs, it’s not really ideal if you’re looking at it that way.
“So, I would definitely love to be able to get a second deal and be able to do it. Unfortunately, it’s not in my control. That’s really just—it’s not even just a me problem, that’s just a problem. That’s just what happens in the NFL with the rules in NFL and what they’re allowed to do. If you’re a first-round draft pick, you can be on contract for four years, they could pick up your fifth-year option, and then they could tag you twice, and that’s seven years on the one team. Then after, it depends on your age, they can really do whatever they want with you. That’s the unfortunate part of business. But for me, I feel like there’s still a lot left in me. Not that there’s a whole bunch left in me, I try to look at the backs before me. A lot of backs play till they’re in their 30s-plus, so I feel like once you allow yourself to even have that mindset, you’re just doing yourself a disservice. So, I’m just going to keep grinding and keep going until I can’t anymore.”
The dance is about to begin. Where will it end? No one knows for sure.