Another week, another update on the contract situation of Giants running back Saquon Barkley. In the newest addition to the saga, Ryan Dunleavy of the New York Post makes the suggestion that the team faces a potential win-win scenario in letting Barkley test free agency, a strategy that Barkley claims he would welcome.
In Dunleavy’s scenario, the Giants would put negotiations in the hands of the open market. This would be slightly similar to when the Ravens placed a non-exclusive franchise tag on Lamar Jackson, allowing other teams to submit offer sheets and, effectively, set the market for their franchise quarterback. Baltimore’s efforts were for naught, though, as other teams saw through the fairly transparent move and opted not to do the Ravens’ work for them. The strategy could work a little better for New York, as unrestricted free agency would not pose quite the same risks for interested parties as submitting offer sheets would’ve for teams wanting Jackson.
Dunleavy suggests that this strategy would need to include a handshake agreement between Barkley and the team that Barkley would “bring his best offer back to the table before signing elsewhere.” Barkley has been vocal in his desires to remain with the Giants long-term. If the team has faith in Barkley’s sincerity, they may be willing to allow Barkley to walk and test the market under the agreement that they will have an opportunity to match any offers made to their franchise back.
“I wouldn’t be against that. That’s fair,” Barkley said of the suggestion. “They know where I want to be. Ownership said they want me to be a Giant for life, too. Last year, we tried our best at the end. Business happened, and we didn’t get it done.”
Barkley is bullish about his self-worth. When the Giants opted for an essential prove-it year during the 2022 season, Barkley accepted the challenge, delivering his most productive year since his rookie campaign. The veteran’s Pro Bowl efforts made things even tougher in negotiations. As the running back position’s collective worth continues to dip in recent years, here Barkley was, proving he was among the best at the position and deserve to be paid like so.
The Giants balked at paying Barkley the numbers being seen by 49ers rusher Christian McCaffrey or Saints back Alvin Kamara. When the two sides failed to reach a long-term agreement to lock down Barkley, they agreed to settle for a one-year, $10.09MM contract, delaying negotiations for another year.
In a second consecutive prove-it season, Barkley mostly delivered, yet again, falling only 38 yards short of the 1,000-yard rushing mark despite missing three contests. Had Barkley appeared in those extra three games, he certainly had the potential to match many of the figures he had put up in 2022. And, though durability has been a point of focus in negotiations of running back value, missing three games is hardly grounds for a significant change in Barkley’s contract numbers.
Regardless, Barkley continues to stand on his desires. His willingness to try Dunleavy’s suggested plan also proves that he remains confident in his value. The likelihood of a team trusting the future of their best offensive player to a handshake agreement seems rather unlikely, but the sentiment is noted. The Giants appreciate their star rusher, but seemingly not enough to pay a little over market value to secure him long-term. So, perhaps, the best chance to determine Barkley’s value will have to come from the interest of the open market.