Replacing Saquon Barkley is a problem the New York Giants would rather avoid this offseason. Yet, if a new contract for Daniel Jones takes up too much money, the Giants may be more inclined to move on from their star running back, rather than use the franchise tag.
In the event Barkley gets to test the market, Jamaal Williams is one of the “names to keep an eye on who could come cheaper” in 2023 NFL free agency, according to SNY.tv’s Connor Hughes. Williams is an intriguing option because he enjoyed a career year with the Detroit Lions that included breaking a longstanding record previously help by Hall of Famer Barry Sanders.
In the process, Williams also proved he can handle the workload of a lead back. Exactly what the Giants would be looking for if they can’t come to terms with Barkley.
Veteran Finally Seized Chance to Be Lead Back
Four years with the Green Bay Packers, spent largely as a foil for Aaron Jones, cast Williams in a supporting role. It’s taken him two seasons, but Williams has finally become a featured runner in Detroit, after rushing 262 times for 1,066 yards.
His most impressive number was the 17 touchdowns he scored on the ground. The last of those scores, ironically against the Packers in Week 18, helped Williams enter the record books by taking a place above Sanders, per NFL on CBS:
The accomplishment was no small feat considering everything Sanders achieved during 10 seasons in Detroit. No. 20 rushed for a franchise-leading 15,269 yards and 99 touchdowns.
A proximity in single-season touchdowns is where the similarities between Williams and Sanders end. While the latter was elusive and artful on the move, 6’0″, 224-pound Williams is a bruiser between the tackles.
His straight-ahead style is perfect for attacking the goal-line. The Giants know all about how well Williams does that, after the 27-year-old scored three times to help the Lions win 31-18 at MetLife Stadium in Week 11.
This punishing run to find pay-dirt summed up Williams’ game:
A prolific scorer who averaged 4.1 yards per carry and broke 13 tackles, per Pro Football Reference, would fit the run-heavy offense the Giants operated this season. Williams would also represent something of a bargain, with Spotrac.com projecting his market value as $4.1 million annually for two years.
That’s a relative steal compared to what the Giants will need to pay to keep Barkley.
Giants Boxed Into a Corner With Saquon Barkley
General manager Joe Schoen has two choices, neither of them particularly appealing. Schoen can either apply the franchise tag, a one-year contract costing a whopping $10.091 million.
Using the tag would only mean revisiting Barkley’s contract dilemma within a year. The alternative is to agree a new, long-term deal now.
Any such contract may cost as much as $16 million per season. That’s what Christian McCaffrey earns with the San Francisco 49ers, and it’s also what “Barkley is looking for,” according to Hughes.
The question isn’t whether Barkley is worth the money. He is and them some after a Pro-Bowl campaign underpinned by 1,312 yards, 4.4 yards per carry and 57 catches.
Barkley is the Giants’ most-talented player, but keeping him may be a luxury when Jones also needs a deal. So does free safety Julian Love, while All-Pro nose tackle Dexter Lawrence is in line for a contract extension.