The New York Giants will open up training camp with their superstar, after all.
Big Blue and running back Saquon Barkley agreed to terms on a surprising one-year deal that will remove his franchise tag and end his highly publicized holdout, according to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport on Tuesday, July 25.
Barkley will receive up to $11 million in 2023, nearly a million dollars more than he was scheduled to receive by signing his franchise tender. Per Rapoport, one-year deals like this are permitted under franchise tag rules.
The deal also includes a $2 million signing bonus and $910,000 in incentives, per The MMQB’s Senior NFL reporter Albert Breer.
“When a player doesn’t do a long-term deal by the mid-July deadline, the only option is a one-year deal,” Rapoport explained on social media. “But the two sides can negotiate that one-year franchise tag into a one-year new contract. It’s very rare, but that’s what happened here.”
What happens after this season is anyone’s guess.
Barkley’s one-year pact does not include any protections against the franchise tag for next offseason, according to NFL Network’s Mike Garafolo and NJ.com beat reporter Art Stapleton. And because Barkley is tearing up his current tag to return to the team, that tag resets to be the average of the five best running back salaries in football that year.
The star ball carrier could’ve received 120% of that average had he accepted his first tag. It must’ve been worth more to him — and his team — to end the drama and open up camp Tuesday with a deal both sides can stomach for now.
Why Did Saquon Barkley & the Giants Agree to a New Deal Now?
Barkley and the Giants appeared ready for a serious stalemate once the July 17 deadline to sign tagged players to long-term contracts had passed.
A closer look reveals the two sides might’ve been closer than fans believed, though.
Barkley and the Giants exchanged respectful comments all offseason, even as the deadline approached. In late March, team owner John Mara revealed he wanted Big Blue to keep Barkley around long-term. And in June, Barkley told ESPN team reporter Jordan Raanan that feeling was mutual.
“At the end of the day, I’m not trying to reset the market,” Barkley told Raanan in a video posted to YouTube. “I want to be a Giant for life. [The Giants] know what it’s going to take to get it done.”
In the end, the Giants did know Barkley’s sticking point.
The two sides were close to a long-term deal on July 17, according to the New York Post’s Ryan Dunleavy. One potential sticking point: a narrow $2 million gap in guaranteed money that neither side initially budged on and that cratered a deal beyond 2023.
“The Giants’ final three-year offer was in the ballpark of $11 million to $11.5 million per year with guarantees between $22 million and $23 million,” sources told Dunleavy. “Those numbers were all within $1 million to $2 million on both ends of Barkley’s reduced asking price. Either way, the numbers were close enough that common ground seems easy to find with incentives over the first two years, but both sides felt that they had budged as much as they could.”
Barkley’s new one-year deal is essentially a compacted version of the short-term one that nearly happened.
That $2 million gap is now a signing bonus he’ll receive upon arriving in East Rutherford. The $910,000 allocated for incentives allows Barkley to earn more this season than the tag would’ve covered.
Meanwhile, New York gets to reset the clock on its star and try again when the team expects to have over $44 million in 2024 cap space, per Spotrac.
Where Does Barkley Fit on the Giants’ Training Camp Depth Chart?
New York has its offensive centerpiece back just in time for camp at team headquarters.
But this deal might be one of the last times we hear from Barkley before the regular season starts.
There’s no reason to risk a preseason Barkley injury after such prolonged negotiations. Barkley can practice, but other veteran backs like Matt Brieda, Gary Brightwell and the recently signed James Robinson should handle in-game action when New York takes the field against the Lions in Detroit on August 11.
But this preseason’s busiest back might be a rookie.
Expect Oklahoma product Eric Gray to have a significant role as a runner this summer. The fifth-round pick needs game experience — and the Giants need game tape on him should negotiations crumble again with Barkley this time next year.