The New York Giants opted to exercise Saquon Barkley’s fifth-year option back in April. However, we all know the real decision regarding Barkley’s long-term future in East Rutherford continues to loom. Currently recovering from a torn ACL, Barkley is eligible for a new contract this offseason. Yet, the team’s front office has made it evidently clear they are in no rush to extend the former NFL Rookie of the Year.
Not so long ago, the Penn State product appeared destined to reset the running back market. Unfortunately, his inability to stay on the field (17 games missed since 2019) has clouded his once surefire payday — or maybe, it’s simply been pushed back.
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Barkley to Reset the Market? NFL.com Analyst Predicts Massive Deal
NFL.com’s Anthony Holzman-Escareno recently compiled his “All-Paid Team of Tomorrow,” a compilation of the top players across the league destined to cash in on a new contract in the somewhat immediate future. Topping the running back position was Barkley, who Holzman-Escareno envisions inking a deal that could give Christian McCaffrey (the league’s highest-paid running back on an average per year basis) a run for his money.
PROJECTED APY: $15M-17M
Health has been Barkley’s lone weakness in the NFL since he was drafted second overall in 2018. That year, he played 16 games, led the NFL with 2,028 scrimmage yards and won Offensive Rookie of the Year. Hall of Famers Eric Dickerson (2,212 in 1983) and Edgerrin James (2,139 in 1999) are the only other players in NFL history to finish with 2,000-plus scrimmage yards as a rookie. Barkley also recorded 91 receptions in ’18, the most all-time by a rookie running back. Since then, though, Barkley has played just 15 games, and he missed the final 14 games last season. Even so, in those 15 games, he produced 1,535 scrimmage yards and eight touchdowns. He’s still been highly productive, but the Giants are surely interested to see how the 24-year-old’s body holds up this upcoming season.
Comparing Barkley’s Predicted Deal to the Top RBs in Football
According to Over the Cap, McCaffrey’s $16,015,853 million average yearly salary currently paces the running back position. Both Ezekiel Elliott and Alvin Kamara closely trail, each owning a $15 million average yearly salary. From there, there’s a sizeable drop-off, as no other back in football eclipses $12.6 million on an average per year basis.
The Saints’ Alvin Kamara took a swing at Christian McCaffrey’s spot on the 2021 All-Paid squad with the extension he signed last year, but Kamara fell a little over $1 million short. A stagnant salary landscape plagued running backs for years, but since 2019, McCaffrey, Kamara, Ezekiel Elliott, Dalvin Cook, Derrick Henry, Joe Mixon and Aaron Jones have signed deals worth at least $12 million per season. Barkley is likely the position’s next hope to raise the salary floor for the league’s top backs. The Giants exercised Barkley’s fifth-year option this offseason, which locks him into his current deal through 2022.
The Giants have done their due diligence this offseason reconstructing their backfield behind Barkley this season. The team went out and handed veteran Devontae Booker a two-year, $5.5 million deal. More recently, they signed ex-Eagle Corey Clement following a tryout. They also used a sixth-round pick on Arizona’s Gary Brightwell. With all that said, the bulk of the workload in Big Blue’s backfield is undoubtedly intended for Barkley — that is, if he can withstand it.
Remember, Holzman-Escareno’s prediction doesn’t come until further down the line. With the ever-budding salaries in the NFL and Barkley’s blue-chip talent, it’s not out of the question that he could yield a deal in line with the NFL.com analyst’s thinking, if not exceed it altogether.
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