Giants GM: Saquon Barkley Tag Still In Play

Before the $255.4MM salary cap became a reality, a report indicated the Giants were highly unlikely to use their franchise tag on Saquon Barkley a second time. A subsequent rumor about an Xavier McKinney transition tag surfaced, injecting more intrigue into this situation.

But the cap came in about $10MM north of the Giants’ expectations. Considering the cost of tagging Barkley a second time ($12.1MM), the cap spike could play a key role in extending this long-running relationship. Though, Barkley still has a good chance of hitting the market for the first time.

[RELATED: Examining Statuses Of 2023 Franchise-Tagged RBs]

Schoen said (via the New York Post’s Paul Schwartz) the Giants would like to have Barkley back in 2024 and added a tag is “not off the table,” though the third-year GM noted the goal would be to reach a deal with the Pro Bowl running back without using the tag. Teams regularly aim for this resolution, as it avoids a cap hold hitting a payroll before free agency.

Barkley may well be the top back available this offseason, should no tag commence, as neither the Raiders (Josh Jacobs) nor Cowboys (Tony Pollard) are planning second tag efforts at RB. Of course, the presences of Jacobs, Pollard, Austin Ekeler, Derrick Henry, D’Andre Swift and the Ravens’ Gus EdwardsJ.K. Dobbins pair stand to dilute the market and work against Barkley, who played on a $10.1MM tag last season. The Bengals may also send Joe Mixon to the market, further crowding a pool that features higher-profile talent compared to last year’s deep RB free agent crop.

As of now, it appears the influx of cap space will “not greatly affect” how the Giants proceed with Barkley, Schwartz notes. The Giants and Barkley have engaged in on-and-off negotiations since November 2022. The sides came close on a deal last July, but as the team increased its guarantee to approximately $22MM, it reduced the offer’s base salary south of $12MM. That prompted Barkley to pass and play on the tag. He can begin speaking to other teams for the first time when the legal tampering period begins March 11.

I wouldn’t say his value has changed, especially to the organization,’’ Schoen said. “He’s a captain; he’s a leader; he’s a hard worker. I think the world of Saquon, and I still think he can play. Unfortunately throughout the process starting back in November of 2022, we weren’t able to come to an agreement in terms of where we were for where a deal made sense. We’ll circle back again.

The Giants are expected to make the two-time Pro Bowler an offer soon, and it will be interesting to see if it rivals what they proposed in July. Additionally, Schwartz notes Roc Nation’s Kim Miale, Barkley’s former agent, is not part of these negotiations. Barkley had brought CAA’s Edward Berry into the picture just before the 2023 tag extension deadline; Berry is now the RB’s lead representative.

As for McKinney, Schoen indicated (via Schwartz) talks have not begun. The sides will begin talking Friday in Indianapolis, when the safety’s agent arrives. McKinney will be one of the top DBs available, and the cap spike will certainly help him. It would cost the Giants $13.82MM to use the transition tag on McKinney, who will not turn 25 until August. Only four players have been transition-tagged over the past 10 years; teams are not entitled to any compensation if they fail to match an offer sheet for a transition-tagged player.

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