Set for their first divisional-round game since their Super Bowl XLVI-winning season 11 years ago, the Giants have been one of this season’s top success stories. The rebuilding team-turned-contender has a complex offseason ahead, however.
Although Dexter Lawrence and Leonard Williams are entering contract years in 2023, the Giants’ two most pressing priorities will be agreements with free agents-to-be Daniel Jones and Saquon Barkley. The team has come around on Jones being part of its future, and the former top-10 pick raised his price again with a quality wild-card performance. But Barkley has been in the new regime’s plans longer. The Giants have the franchise tag to deploy, though they will need to determine which player will be tagged.
While no Jones talks occurred during the team’s November bye that doubled as a midseason negotiating window, the Giants did make Barkley an offer. That proposal was believed to be in the $12MM-$12.5MM-per-year range, according to the New York Post’s Ian O’Connor. The Giants offered Barkley either a three- or four-year deal, but the former No. 2 overall pick turned it down. Barkley is targeting a top-market contract, which makes sense given the season he has put together and cap rise since the last such deal was awarded.
The $12MM-AAV range has been the compromise point that has helped a number of teams retain their standout running backs in recent years. It forms a solid second tier at the position. Dalvin Cook, Derrick Henry, Nick Chubb, Aaron Jones and Joe Mixon are each attached to a deal between $12MM and $12.6MM on average. Christian McCaffrey, Ezekiel Elliott and Alvin Kamara‘s pacts comprise the first tier — north of $15MM per year — but the $12MM-AAV quintet is well above every other player at the position. No other back is attached to a deal worth more than $8MM per annum.
Barkley, 25, totaled 1,650 scrimmage yards this season and did not miss a game due to injury, re-establishing himself after three injury-plagued years. He entered the season with an uncertain future, even being mentioned in trade rumors during the 2022 offseason. But even by the midseason point when Barkley turned down the offer, his value was trending toward the McCaffrey price range. A November report indicated the sides did not come close on a deal, and that could be a prelude to their 2023 talks.
The Giants can tag Barkley at barely $10MM per year, and a second tag in 2024 would come in just above $12MM. That gives the Giants some leverage, though considering the former Offensive Rookie of the Year’s importance to their cause, a hardline stance may not be the best course of action. The Giants are believed to be willing to pay Barkley a top-market rate, but it will be interesting to see if the five-year veteran targets the McCaffrey contract — four years, $64MM — or attempts to move the bar higher. CMC’s market-topping deal came to pass early in the 2020 offseason. Nearly three years later, the cap is expected to check in beyond the $220MM point. McCaffrey’s contract occurring when the cap resided at $198MM bodes well for Barkley, who was instrumental in the Giants’ first playoff win in over a decade.
Jones’ contract year complicates the Giants’ path. How the team proceeds with its two offensive cornerstones will be one of the more fascinating contract situations in recent memory.