Saquon Barkley joined James Bradberry as high-profile Giants trade candidates this offseason, one in which the rebuilding team severed ties with select veterans to cut costs. This included Bradberry, released in May after a Texans trade fell through, but Barkley remains with the team.
Trade rumors involving the former Offensive Rookie of the Year swirled for a stretch earlier this year, but the Giants did not discover much of a market. The Giants may have discussed prospective Barkley trades, but Dan Duggan of The Athletic notes it is unlikely they were truly shopping the talented back (subscription required).
No offer wowed new GM Joe Schoen, and the former No. 2 overall pick is expected to play a versatile role in Brian Daboll‘s first Giants offense. Barkley is not the only New York skill-position player to be thrown into trade rumors this offseason. Kadarius Toney and Darius Slayton joined him. While the Giants do not appear prepared to unload Toney after just one year, Slayton has consistently been mentioned as a player who might not be on Big Blue’s 2022 roster.
Neither of those players has displayed a ceiling remotely close to what Barkley has, though injuries have significantly affected the Penn State product’s trajectory. A 2019 high ankle sprain, 2020 ACL and MCL tears, and more ankle trouble last season turned Barkley from being fast-tracked to a monster extension to a player whose Giants future beyond this season is very much in doubt. Barkley joins Daniel Jones in that lot, but the Giants did pick up the former’s fifth-year option (only $7.2MM) a year before declining to exercise Jones’.
Still, Barkley’s injuries and a 2021 season in which he averaged 3.7 yards per carry have obviously dropped his stock. If it becomes clear the Giants do not see a future with Barkley, an in-season trade — when teams would not have to pay his full salary, which doubles as the league’s sixth-highest running back cap number — could be in play. Of course, Barkley also has a chance to revive his value behind what could be the best offensive line with which he has played. The Giants added at least three new starters, including first-round right tackle Evan Neal and longtime Colts guard Mark Glowinski, and may have made a tremendous play-caller upgrade by hiring Daboll.
Barkley’s dominant rookie season (NFL-leading 2,028 scrimmage yards, to go along with 15 touchdowns) and the fact that he is only going into his age-25 season should keep the door open for a reasonable payday — if he can stay reasonably healthy this season. Barkley joins Kareem Hunt, Josh Jacobs, Damien Harris and Devin Singletary among the backs eligible for free agency next year. A strong 2022 would allow him to headline that class while also potentially moving the new Giants regime to consider a second contract.