Saquon Barkley and the Giants: what’s going on?

Saquon Barkley has been the main weapon in the New York Giant’s offense ever since he was drafted by the team at #2 during the 2018 draft. He is seen as one of the best running backs in the league, and could one day become a key part in a team’s super bowl run. However, there was a possibility that he could have left the Giants in the offseason.

One could say that the current situation surrounding Barkley’s contract started before the 2022 season started. The Giants picked up the fifth-year option on Saquon’s rookie contract, meaning that he would go into contract talks with the Giants in the following offseason. At around the same time, the Giants refused the fifth-year option on Quarterback Daniel Jones’ contract. Both of these moves were to be expected. Barkley had shown potential to perform well while Jones had underperformed.

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Then the 2022 season happened. Under new head coach Brian Daboll, the Giants went from eternal strugglers to potential champions, as they made the playoffs and won their wildcard game against the Minnesota Vikings in their first playoff victory since their last Super Bowl. Barkley had the fourth-highest rushing yards during the season (1,312) and scored 10 touchdowns. But this season saw a transformation in Daniel Jones, who overperformed everyone’s expectations and played like a franchise quarterback, who with improvements in their offense, could lead the team back to the playoffs and even further than they reached before.

This gave the Giants a problem. It was widely assumed that one player would get a contract extension if they wanted it, while the other would become franchised tagged for the year. For those who do not know, the franchise tag is a way for NFL teams to retain a player whose contract is about to run out, by giving them a one-year contract. It is seen as a way for teams to keep their key players while reducing the financial impact for the team, as the potential risks surrounding a long-term contract are limited. However, some franchise tags can prevent a player from negotiating with other teams, and the value of the contract being offered is non-negotiable. If a team fails in these negotiations, the player becomes a free agent and is able to sign with any team, for any amount.

So, what happened in the off-season? We saw negotiations between Jones and the Giants go back and forth, with 5 minutes to go before the deadline to franchise tag players, they agreed to a 4 year $160 million contract. In October, I wrote an article for World in Sport about whether Jones should get a contract in the offseason. To cut a long story short, after 6 games in the regular season, I said he should get one. Looking back at his season as a whole, I still think he deserved this contract. Is $40 million a year too much for someone who has had one amazing year and underperformed for the others? Most of the NFL community said yes. Time will tell if this deal works out for Danny Dimes and the Giants.

But, what about Saquon? After Jones was given his contract, the Giants put Barkley on the franchise tag. Then, it all went quiet on this front. Until last week, when Barkley spoke on a podcast about this issue. The main takeaway the media took from this was that Barkley was considering sitting out the season, losing money but some would say proving a point of his value. Without him, where would the team be? Would they be as successful without him then they were with him?

This all leads to the debate of who is more important for an NFL Team, a quarterback or a running back? This debate reignited itself in the last few days, with many running backs highlighting how “undervalued” they believed they were. During this off-season, 3 running backs have not been signed to long-term contracts, while many quarterbacks have. In relation to Barkley, he definitely is a star player. Without him, the Giants would have had a mostly non-existent offense last season. To some people, Barkley is the reason people watch the Giants. As OJ Simpson (who nobody takes seriously these days and will probably be more known for his white Bronco police chase in the future) said, “Nobody goes to games to see Daniel Jones”

But, a running back is nothing without a quarterback. Putting a cynical spin on things quickly, but I do think that if the quarterback in question was not Daniel Jones, this debate would not even happen.

As I am writing this, a major development occurred in this issue. Sources are saying that Barkley and the Giants have agreed to a 1-year contract worth $11 million. Most importantly, the agreement does not include a franchise tag, meaning that the Giants can again franchise tag Barkley if they want to next season. While a contract has been given, I still don’t believe this will end the Saquon Barkley issue. It has only delayed it for a year.

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