Only 1 Team Outranks Jets as Better Landing Spot for Saquon Barkley

Saquon Barkley

Getty 2018 draft prospects Saquon Barkley (left) and Sam Darnold (right) chat on August 8, 2019.

After moving up in the 2018 NFL draft, the New York Jets ended up following the cross-town rival Giants to close out the top three picks.

Despite needing a quarterback of the future, Big Blue famously passed on promising prospects like Sam Darnold and Josh Allen among others, in favor of a running back that ex-Giants GM Dave Gettleman said was “touched by the hand of God.”

That, of course, was Penn State product, Saquon Barkley. As we know, the Jets then took Darnold one slot later. Needless to say, neither of these crucial selections have had the desired impact of a top-three draft pick.

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Short Trip for Saquon

With a new general manager at the helm in Joe Schoen, Barkley has been the subject of some trade chatter which inspired a landing spot article from CBS Sports writer Cody Benjamin.

The NFL analyst named 11 potential trade destinations and the Jets finished second on the list. Benjamin reasoned:

Barkley wouldn’t have to move very far. More importantly, the Jets could use a better complement for promising 2021 starter Michael Carter, and they’ve got close to $50M in available cap space. As a bonus, Barkley’s dad is a diehard Jets fan to this day, perhaps instilling some fondness for Gang Green in his son.

It’s true, Gang Green is in the market for a complementary back to pair with Carter but the assumption is that they’ll go with a much cheaper option in free agency or the draft. For example, Tevin Coleman got the job done when healthy in 2021.

Barkley is just as much of an injury risk at a $7.2 million price tag. The fallen star is also due for a new contract in 2023, so the Jets would have to decide whether to keep him past his one-year rental or not.

Despite all that, oddsmaker Adam Thompson of agreed with the analyst, giving the Jets the second-best odds to land the precarious trade target behind the division rival Miami Dolphins at +700. Technically, Gang Green is third overall, as the Giants retaining Barkley still ranks first in the betting world.

If Joe Douglas did decide to foot the bill, the one positive here is that Barkley should come cheap otherwise. Benjamin detailed: “The return, of course, wouldn’t be extravagant. But the Giants are in need of cap space, and a trade would save them up to $7.2M (they could also agree to eat some of Barkley’s 2022 salary). They could also use any extra draft-pick compensation for their rebuild, to address bigger needs like quarterback, offensive line, pass rusher, and so on.”

Let’s say the Green & White elected to bet on Barkley’s upside for a year, they could solve the running back position with a buy-low playmaker that totaled 2,000 scrimmage yards in 2018.

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Chances Are Slim

I have to be honest, this type of deal does not seem likely under Douglas and Robert Saleh. Maybe if ex-GM Mike Maccagnan was still in charge, Benjamin and the oddsmakers might be on to something.

After all, this Barkley move doesn’t sound too far off from the Le’Veon Bell signing. It’s a bit cheaper, but both would sacrifice cap space and assets for a running back that has probably lost a step.

It’s true, the Giants ball carrier just turned 25 in February, but RB seasons are like dog years and Barkley has had enough early injuries in his career to make any front office wonder if his best days are behind him. For the Jets, this type of risk just doesn’t make sense in 2022.

I do see Barkley getting traded as Schoen cleans house but I think it’s a contender that targets him. A franchise like the Los Angeles Chargers would be the perfect fit, considering their cap situation and the fact that they’re openly looking for a compliment to Austin Ekeler.

Ironically, Benjamin missed that destination but did include all three AFC East rivals. The Dolphins beat out every team once again, finishing first on the CBS writer’s list, while the Buffalo Bills and New England Patriots came in at Nos. 7 and 10 respectively.

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