There’s only so much of the pie to go around. And a “gap” in the negotiations between the New York Giants and one of their most important players means he might be headed toward free agency, according to writer Dov Kleiman.
“Giants RB Saquon Barkley is now considered likely to hit free-agency,” Kleiman tweeted on February 21, quoting a February 18 New York Post story that reported, “As of the latest talks, a gap still exists” in the negotiations.
Barkley, 26, is one of 18 Giants set to become an unrestricted free agent once the free agency period starts on March 15. Spotrac places Barkley’s market value at $12.3 million, predicting he’ll get a four-year deal worth about $49 million. New York could also use the franchise tag on Barkley, which would keep him for at least one while they attempted to work out a deal. Kleiman suggested neither scenario would work out.
“Giants aren’t likely to pay Saquon more than $12.5M a year and have ‘little interest’ in placing the $10.1M franchise tag on him,” Kleiman wrote.
General manager Joe Schoen said on February 1 that he’d begun talking to Barkley’s representatives about a new deal but had not finalized anything, according to Fox Sports’ Ralph Vacciano. New York also has a decision to make at another premier offensive position: quarterback. Fifth-year QB Daniel Jones also is set to become a free agent and is a prime candidate to get the franchise rather than Barkley, according to Pro Football Talk.
Barkley, a former first-round pick, was a finalist for Comeback Player of the Year after looking like his old self as a dominant NFL running back. He finished the 2022 season with 295 carries for a career-best in rushing yards, yards per game and added ten touchdowns on the ground. Besides missing the season’s finale to rest before the playoffs, Barkley was available for 16 games for the first time since his rookie year, in 2018.
Opinions on Barkley Returning to New York
Barkley significantly contributed to the Giants’ offensive success under Brian Daboll’s first season as head coach, touching the ball 352 times, 232 more times than Jones in second place.
Not only was Barkley New York’s leading rusher, but he also finished fourth on the team in receiving yards with 338. That’s more than Daniel Bellinger and Kenny Golladay. Barkley can be used in a variety of ways by coach Daboll, which only adds to the rusher’s excitement about his potential future in New York.
According to the New York Post, in an interview during Super Bowl week, Barkley said he felt confident in his head coach and general manager and looked forward to being back with the Giants.
“I love the energy, I love the conversation I had with him. … I think he and the GM Joe Schoen they’re doing an amazing job right now. I can’t wait to get back in April.”
Even though Barkley had one of his best statistical seasons with Daboll leading the offense, Anthony Rivardo of Empire Sports wrote that the coaching staff’s history might not bode well for the running back’s long-term future in New York.
Schoen and Daboll came from the Buffalo Bills, where their running backs for the 2021 season were Devin Singletary and Zack Moss. Both backs combined for $2.15 million against the salary cap that year. The Bills’ highest cap hit for the 2021 season was at left tackle and quarterback.
According to David Helman of Fox Sports, “It’s easier to find a replacement at running back than it is at quarterback.”
The Giants have until March 13 to decide where they stand with a new contract for Barkley. If they don’t finalize a deal or apply a tag, that’s the date for the NFL’s legal tampering period to begin, where teams can contact unrestricted free agents outside of their 2022 team for a potential deal.
Other important starters who will become free agents include Jon Feliciano, Jihad Ward, Julian Love and Darius Slayton.