Giants’ Top Free Agent Tipped for NFC West Team

Saquon Barkley and Daniel Jones

Getty One of the Giants' top two free agents is tipped to move to the NFC West.

Daniel Jones and Saquon Barkley headline the list of pending free agents for the New York Giants. Keeping both may be beyond general manager Joe Schoen, who must decide between the importance of preserving even a competent starter at quarterback, or securing the long-term future of Barkley, the most talented member of head coach Brian Daboll’s offense.

If the Giants can’t balance the books to include Jones and Barkley for 2023, another team from around the NFL will be only too happy to snatch one of Big Blue’s prized assets. That team could reside in the NFC West, with one writer naming the Giants’ top free agent a fit for a talented but underperforming squad.

Key Offensive Weapon Could Be Headed West

In a list of one free-agent signing for each team, Bo Wulf of The Athletic sent Barkley to the Arizona Cardinals. Wulf noted the injury situation involving Cards’ quarterback Kyler Murray, and how it might prompt a change in offensive philosophy in the desert: “Whatever the diagnosis, the offseason promises change in Arizona. The 27th-ranked run DVOA could use a boost, and Arizona might be willing to pay the price for Barkley to give it some semblance of a different offensive personality.”

Adding Barkley would immediately transform the Cardinals from the pass-crazed outfit they’ve been under head coach Kliff Kingsbury. The presence of a bluechip running back like Barkley would restore the ground attack as a viable way of moving the ball in Arizona.

That’s something the Cardinals have struggled to do this season. They are exactly middle of the pack with 1,492 yards on the ground.

A 4.4-yards per carry average is solid, but James Conner leading the team with a paltry 561 yards speaks volumes about the Cards’ mediocre running game. So does Murray being second on the rushing charts with 418 yards.

Conner, 27, is under contract for another two seasons and set to earn $5.75 million in base salary in 2023, per Yet, the same source also details how the Cards have a “potential out” in 2024 at a cost of just $2 million in dead cap money.

Bringing in Barkley, who is two years younger and more dynamic, would allow the Cardinals to field a two-headed monster in the backfield for a season, before moving on from Conner ahead of schedule.

Murray’s status, meanwhile, will remain uncertain for next season after he tore his ACL on this play against the New England Patriots in Week 14:

Even if Murray is ready to go from the off next season, he may not be at his best. Then the Cardinals would need to lean on a true workhorse like Barkley.

The latter has been the oil in the engine for the Giants this season, but handing him a lucrative, lengthy new contract is a risk.

Giants Should Proceed with Caution

Barkley’s injury history makes him a gamble if the Giants are tempted to pay up. He started every game during a stellar rookie campaign in 2018, but Barkley missed 21 games the next three seasons.

Although he’s managed to start all 13 games this season, Barkley’s carried the ball 251 times, the third most in the league. He’s also added 42 catches to his ample workload.

All of the carries and hits appear to be taking their toll, based on Barkley’s flagging numbers in recent weeks, per Bobby Skinner of Talkin’ Giants:

There’s already a lot of tread on the tyres for a back expecting the kind of money given to the league’s highest-paid runners. A report from NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport and Mike Garafolo revealed Barkley’s reps put him in the same bracket at San Francisco 49ers’ star Christian McCaffrey, who is paid $16 million per year.

A fee in the same bracket would more than double Barkley’s current salary of $7.217 million. Meeting that demand would also make it difficult to retain Jones.

It would be cheaper for the Giants to find a lower-profile alternative in the backfield. They could select another Barkley in the 2023 draft by taking his direct comparison, Texas standout Bijan Robinson.

Schoen’s smartest ploy would be to franchise tag Barkley with the non-exclusive tag and see if a RB-needy team like the Cards wants to part with draft picks for a proven playmaker. Then the Giants would have enough money to re-up Jones on a short-term deal, along with the draft capital and finances to also bolster talent at wide receiver, interior offensive line, inside linebacker and cornerback.

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