The New York Giants still need to re-sign quarterback Daniel Jones and running back Saquon Barkley ahead of 2023 NFL free agency, but progress on both deals has been slow. In fact, talks “have been stalled” with one of the team’s top free agents, according to an update from ESPN’s Dianna Russini.
She reported the Giants remain locked in “50/50” contract talks with Jones’ representatives ahead of the deadline for using the franchise tag. The outcome of those talks will directly impact Barkley, who will almost certainly be tagged if Jones agrees a new long-term contract.
Barkley wants the years as well, but the Giants are stuck in a situation where they have to decide which is more important. A capable starting quarterback or a superstar running back.
Those decisions usually only go one way in the modern NFL.
Giants’ Best Player Likely to Be an Afterthought in Negotiations
A QB1 winning games is going to be valued more than a workhorse runner. That’s the cold, hard reality facing Barkley and his agents.
The Giants and general manager Joe Schoen know it because, “without outright saying it, Schoen made it clear that Jones is the priority” while speaking at the Scouting Combine, according to Heavy’s Senior NFL Reporter Matt Lombardo.
It’s why Barkley has to wait for a resolution involving Jones before the Giants make a decisive move about his future. Ideally, Schoen will rubber-stamp a multi-year deal for Jones and be free to tag Barkley.
The tag for running backs cost $10.091 million, compared to $32,416,000 for QBs, per Over The Cap. Those numbers are why the Giants want to spread the cost with Jones and risk doing this all over again with Barkley a year from now.
That’s the plan anyway, but things haven’t gone smoothly. Not according to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport, who reported talks with Jones’ people “got a little tense, tension boiled over at times.”
Said tension is understandable if the Giants have made Jones offers, but he’s holding out for more. That’s his prerogative, particularly after a career year, but Jones hardly has the statistical output to hold the Giants over a barrel.
It’s a different story with Barkley.
Statistics Should Make This an Easy Decision for Giants
Jones threw just 15 touchdown passes last season, while also directing a passing game that produced a league-low 28 completions of 20-plus yards.
A lack of dynamic wide receivers hardly helped his cause, but Jones didn’t post numbers quarterbacks who get paid top-tier money usually produce. Instead, the Giants relied more on Barkley and his career-best 295 carries and 1,312 rushing yards to power their offense.
Barkley also “dropped his rate of stuffed runs down to 6.8% in 2022 compared to 9.2% over his three healthy seasons when he tried to bounce too many runs outside instead of trusting his blocking,” per Pro Football Focus.
The Giants only go as far as Barkley takes them, but teams don’t go from contenders to champions without quality play from their quarterbacks. It’s why Jones will be overvalued compared to Barkley in these negotiations.
Following this formula will maintain conventional, league-wide wisdom, but the Giants may regret the strategy if Barkley ends up entering free agency. A player of his elite talents surely wouldn’t last long on the market.