But maybe the Chicago Bears can.
If Big Blue and Barkley can’t agree on a long-term deal by the July 17 deadline, a blockbuster Barkley trade to the Windy City would be “worth consideration,” according to Bleacher Report’s Alex Ballentine.
“The Giants and the running back still have yet to iron out a long-term agreement,” Ballentine wrote. “Right now, the 26-year-old is set to play on the tag this season and the clock is ticking. A trade for Barkley would give the Bears one of the best groups of talent around their quarterback in the league.”
Chicago was once the betting favorite to land No. 26 in free agency, per OddsChecker.com. But Barkley never made it that far.
Earlier this year, New York slapped the franchise tag on their 1,312-yard rusher to prevent him from moving to another team. Long-term contract negotiations between the team and player have been a rollercoaster ever since.
There’s no indication New York wants off the Barkley ride yet. General manager Joe Schoen would need Barkley to sign his franchise tag tender just to open up the very possibility of a trade.
But as Ballentine said, the clock is ticking. League rules stipulate that franchise-tagged players like Barkley have until July 17 to strike long-term deals with their teams. That leaves a little over a month for negotiations that have stalled and sputtered thus far — or a trade that would give both sides a fresh start.
What Would a Bears-Giants Barkley Trade Look Like?
Schoen might not be able to pull off a last-second deal with Barkley like he did with quarterback Daniel Jones. But would he really consider a trade?
Trade negotiations would start with a four-pick package similar to what the 49ers gave up for Christian McCaffrey, per Ballentine. They would also need to involve teams that value the run game and could offer Barkley the contract he’s looking for in New York.
In other words: The Chicago Bears.
According to OverTheCap, no team has more current cap space than Bears’ $32 million. They’re also armed with a bevy of future draft picks after trading down from the No. 1 overall spot in the 2023 NFL draft in April. And Ballentine believes Barkley would represent a big upgrade for Chicago, which posted the second-most rushing attempts in football last year.
“The Bears let (David) Montgomery walk,” Ballentine wrote. “They replaced him with Roschon Johnson in the draft and D’Onta Foreman in free agency. Those two, combined with Khalil Herbert, give the team a solid group of backs. However, none of the three is the same kind of difference-maker as a healthy Barkley.”
A healthy Barkley would command a healthy trade return, though.
Carolina recouped four draft picks by trading McCaffrey: Second, third, and fourth rounders in 2023, plus a fifth-round pick in 2024. New York would hypothetically look for a similar package back if it ever dealt Barkley to Chicago.
Here’s what the Bears could hypothetically offer New York to land Barkley in a trade:
- 2024 third-round pick
- 2024 fourth-round pick (via Eagles from Jalen Carter trade)
- 2025 second-round pick (via Panthers from Bryce Young trade)
- 2025 fifth-round pick
That haul seems expensive, but Chicago still keeps both its 2024 first-round picks. In doing so, it can continue surrounding their quarterback, Justin Fields, with the kind of talent Ballentine thinks they need.
“The idea of putting a dynamic running back beside Fields in the backfield could open up the Bears offense,” Ballentine wrote. “A trade for Barkley would give the Bears one of the best groups of talent around their quarterback in the league.”
What Would the Post-Saquon Barkley Giants Look Like?
No one Giant could be called upon to fill Barkley’s giant cleats in the unlikely event of a trade.
Barkley is a locker room leader and 2022 team captain. He was responsible for over half of New York’s rushing yardage and nearly one-third of its total yardage during last season’s playoff run. And he’s one of the most recognizable and marketable players in professional sports, let alone football.
More leadership could come from established Giants like Jones, defensive lineman Dexter Lawrence, and edge rusher Kayvon Thibodeaux. It could also be mined in new additions like ex-Pro Bowl tight end Darren Waller or fostered over time in draft picks like cornerback Deonte Banks or center John Michael Schmitz.
Barkley’s on-field production would be just as tough to replace, too.
Based on last year’s pecking order, veteran Matt Breida would be next in line to take Barkley’s snaps. Gary Brightwell and Jashaun Corbin would also be called upon for more meaningful snaps. But no player would likely be called on more than fifth-round rookie runner Eric Gray.
The Tennessee and Oklahoma product rushed for 1,366 yards in his final collegiate season and is already considered a hidden gem of his draft class. And while Schoen said he didn’t select him as Barkley’s heir apparent, Gray could still be a potential steal.
“In a draft with less RB depth than 2023 had, Gray would have been no worse than a third-round pick — even with the questions about how much work his frame can handle in the NFL,” wrote Nick Baumgartner of The Athletic. “If the Giants wind up moving on from Saquon Barkley, Gray’s addition would look that much better.”