In the least surprising news from what has otherwise been a widely uncanny offseason for the New York Giants, the team has decided to pick up Saquon Barkley’s fifth-year option. Big Blue announced the move on Wednesday, essentially ensuring the former No. 2 overall pick will remain in East Rutherford through the 2022 NFL season.
Barkley will count just over $10 million against the cap in 2021 (third-highest amongst NFL running backs). The following season he will see his salary drop, receiving $7.21 million fully guaranteed in 2022 (ninth-highest amongst NFL running backs), via Spotrac.
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Barkley on Track for Week 1
The Giants’ decision to exercise Barkley’s option comes just hours after ESPN’s Adam Schefter gave the world a promising update on the running back’s road to recovery. Barkley, who suffered a torn ACL in Week 2 of the 2020 season against the Chicago Bears, is “on track” to be ready for the start of 2021 season, per the NFL insider.
A first-round pick in 2018, the Penn State product burst onto the scene as a rookie, leading the NFL with 2,028 yards from scrimmage, en route to earning NFL Rookie of the Year honors. The following season he saw a dip in production as injuries began to strike. Still, he became the first Giants player in team history to rush for at least 1,000 yards in each of his first two seasons (1,003 yards in 2019) and set a franchise record with 279 yards from scrimmage against Washington in Week 16 of that year.
Barkley’s talent has never been brought into question. However, after missing 17 games over the past two seasons, his durability has. Still, the Giants clearly seem confident that the 23-year-old will re-establish himself as one of the league’s top running backs moving forward.
“We fully expect him to be as good as new,” team president John Mara said back in March. “I mean, if anybody is going to spend 100 percent of his efforts to rehab, it will be Saquon just knowing what type of motivation he has and desire he has … I said it at the end of the season and I’ll say it again, we hope he’s going to be a Giant for life and at the appropriate time we’ll start those discussions.”
Giants Reportedly Eyeing a Running Back Early in the Draft
Despite their faith in Barkley returning to full-strength and their belief that backup Devontae Booker is a “legitimate every-down back,” the team is clearly still looking to further bolster their backfield.
“Two teams picking early on Day 2 that have done extensive work on running backs: the Falcons and Giants. … With Saquon Barkley still recovering from a torn anterior cruciate ligament and a decision on his fifth-year option looming, the Giants could be looking for insurance,” per ESPN.
The Giants do hold the 42nd overall selection in the second round. Should a stud talent such as Travis Etienne or Najee Harris slip to day two, the team could theoretically get on the phone in hopes of moving up to secure the back’s services. Another option, were they to stay put at No. 42, would be North Carolina’s Javonte Williams — one of the class’s more well-rounded prospects at the position. With that said, with more urgent holes to fill throughout the roster, chances are the Giants wait until Round 3 — at the earliest — to address their running back spot.
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