Saquon Barkley

Giants Resume Saquon Barkley Negotiations; Team Targeting FA WRs

Just less than five weeks remain until the deadline for teams to apply franchise tags. The Giants have until 3pm CT on March 7 to use their tag, and barring an unlikely scenario in which both Daniel Jones and Saquon Barkley are extended before that point, one of the team’s offensive cornerstones will be tagged.

Joe Schoen has been clear the team plans to retain Jones, and while the second-year GM did not waver from that stance this week at the Senior Bowl, he indicated conversations have not yet begun with the team’s four-year starting quarterback. Schoen, however, confirmed (via the New York Post’s Paul Schwartz) the Giants have resumed extension talks with Barkley. Schoen said he held discussions with Barkley’s camp this week and will continue to do so upon returning to New York next week.

The team prioritized Barkley in talks during its November bye week, but Schoen has since indicated the sides did not come close to a deal at that point. The Giants did submit an offer — roughly $12.5MM per year — and Schwartz notes the extension proposal is believed to be for three years. Barkley’s camp turned it down, seeking a contract closer to the running back ceiling. Though, Barkley said last month he was not looking to reset the running back market. Considering Barkley’s value to the Giants and Christian McCaffrey‘s market-topping pact ($16MM AAV) being signed in April 2020, Barkley pushing for a comparable deal makes sense. But the Giants do not appear inclined to go that high.

The Giants should not be expected to move much further north of the $12.5MM-range offer, Schwartz adds, but the prospect of a Barkley tag is cloudy. The Giants will not want a $10.1MM running back cap number on its payroll, per Schwartz, but ESPN.com’s Jordan Raanan notes the team would prefer to knock a Jones contract out and save the tag for Barkley. The latter course here would be the best way for the Giants to manage their funds while ensuring both Jones and Barkley return. A Jones tag would cost $32.42MM, thus comprising much of Big Blue’s cap space.

Maligned for years, Jones is now the team’s priority. He will be set to become the first quarterback in the fifth-year option era to re-sign with a team — via a long-term deal or the tag — after it declined his option. The Giants could have pushed Jones’ rookie contract out to 2023 by exercising the $22.4MM option. Instead, they are likely looking at a deal beyond the $30MM-per-year point. The Giants should be expected to value Jones in the $35MM-per-year range, via Schwartz. Although Jones’ late-season value rise can be partially attributed to the Vikings’ woeful defense, the Giants have turned around on the Dave Gettleman-era draftee.

We want Daniel back,” Schoen said. “We haven’t started conversations with his people yet. Once we get into it in terms of years, contract structure, finances, I’m not really sure where they’re gonna be, what they’re asking for, we’re still working on where we’d want to start so until we get into the actual negotiations I really won’t have a good sense for years, money.”

Barkley is certainly better at his position than Jones is at his, but quarterback value obviously dwarfs the importance of backfield stalwarts. The Giants also have other needs, including potentially multiple wide receiver additions. The draft will be an avenue for New York here, but Fox Sports’ Jay Glazer expects the team to pursue wideouts in free agency (video link).

Darius Slayton‘s contract expires in March, and while the Giants have exclusive negotiating rights with the former fifth-round pick, the new regime figures to also explore the market. This free agency class does not profile as a particularly enticing receiver lot, but complementary-type targets will be available. Jakobi Meyers, DJ Chark, Allen Lazard and JuJu Smith-Schuster represent the top contingent of mid-20-somethings on track for free agency. Parris Campbell brings an extensive injury history, but the ex-Colts second-rounder surpassed 600 receiving yards for a bad offense this season.

Monitoring a Giants-Odell Beckham Jr. pursuit will be necessary as well. Beckham made his initial NFL team his first visit in December, and though the OBJ sweepstakes did not produce a deal, the Cowboys and Rams are likely to dive back into this market. Beckham turned 30 in November and missed the season, but he remains close to ex-Giants teammates Barkley and Sterling Shepard (the latter is also a UFA-to-be). The Giants passed on adding receivers via trade before the deadline, but despite Isaiah Hodgins‘ stretch-run production, this remains a glaring need. The team also has second-round pick Wan’Dale Robinson rehabbing an ACL tear.

Giants Prioritizing Daniel Jones Over Saquon Barkley?

The Giants’ situation with two of this year’s top free agents may be evolving. After the team held Saquon Barkley negotiations during its bye week and did not discuss a deal with Daniel Jones, the two offensive pillars may have flipped in priority.

Second-year GM Joe Schoen was more declarative regarding a desire to retain Jones than Barkley, citing positional value. Despite Barkley’s two Pro Bowls, retaining Jones looks to be Big Blue’s top task.

We’d like Daniel to be here. He said it [Sunday]; there is a business side to it. But we feel like Daniel played well this season,” Schoen said, via ESPN.com’s Jordan Raanan. “He’s done everything we’ve asked him to. … We would like to have Daniel Jones back.

We’re happy Daniel is going to be here. Hopefully we can get something done with his representatives. That would be the goal, to build a team around him where he could lead us to win a Super Bowl. It takes two. Both sides are going to have that conversation,” Schoen said. “We haven’t crossed that bridge yet. There are tools at our disposal.

Jones, 25, enhanced his value considerably this season by piloting the Giants to their first playoff win in 11 years. A Jones agreement will make a bit of transactions history. No quarterback whose team passed on his fifth-year option — which the Giants did in May 2022 — has re-signed with that franchise. It is certainly looking like Jones will be back, and Schoen’s comments point to the four-year quarterback starter being the potential tag candidate over the former Offensive Rookie of the Year.

Schoen mentioning the tools at the team’s disposal comes nearly three months after he floated the franchise tag as a weapon to retain Barkley. The running back tag is expected to come in at around $10MM, while the nonexclusive quarterback tag is projected to check in at approximately $32MM. Tagging Jones, who fared well in the Giants’ wild-card win before struggling against the Eagles, would take a significant bite into the Giants’ free agency dollars.

The Giants are projected to hold just less than $55MM in cap space — third-most in the league. A Barkley tag, conversely, would allow for increased flexibility without venturing to restructures. Barkley’s bounce-back season notwithstanding, the Giants could be prepared to let him test free agency. The team also has Dexter Lawrence on track to land a deal likely north of $20MM per year, which likely factors into their Barkley plans as well.

Listen, Saquon’s done everything we’ve asked him to do and he’s a good football player,” Schoen said. “Again, the positional value, we’ll get into how we want to build this team and allocate our resources. That is what it comes down to. Again, he’s a good football player. He was durable for this year. He played well and, again, he’s a guy we would like to have back.”

Barkley, 25, said Sunday he was not pushing to reset the running back market. Doing so would not be an entirely unreasonable ask, given Barkley’s value to the Giants and Christian McCaffrey‘s $16MM-per-year deal having been signed nearly three years ago. But Barkley turned down a deal in the $12MM-AAV range in November. Schoen confirmed a midseason report indicating the sides were not close on terms, and Fox Sports’ Ralph Vacchiano notes (via Twitter) Barkley’s ask is in the McCaffrey range.

With the tag still low for backs, Vacchiano adds the team is unlikely to move much higher than the $12MM range — effectively the running back second tier — ahead of free agency (Twitter link). This could create a fascinating market bid for Barkley, who would be one of the most talented backs to ever reach free agency. The five-year starter totaled 1,650 yards and 10 touchdowns in 16 games, recovering from the injuries that plagued him from 2019-21. Barkley mentioned his injury past when assessing his value, and while he wants to stay, he would be a coveted player come March.

However, this year’s running back market will be crowded. A glut of backs including most of the following contingent — Kareem Hunt, Miles Sanders, David Montgomery, Jamaal Williams, Devin Singletary Damien Harris — stands to be available. The Raiders and Cowboys have been mentioned as candidates to tag their top backs — Josh Jacobs and Tony Pollard — so it would be interesting to see these two valued via the tag and Barkley be allowed to talk with other teams. The Raiders and Cowboys, however, do not have their starting quarterback on an expiring contract. Jones’ solid season looks to have changed the Giants’ plans.

Tagging the quarterback and attempting to re-sign the running back is the opposite of how the Titans played their similar situation in 2020, when they cuffed Derrick Henry and re-signed Ryan Tannehill shortly before the market opened. The Giants are expected to talk with Jones until the new league year begins, per Raanan, who categorizes the quarterback as the team’s top priority. Teams have until March 7 to use their franchise tags.

Giants RB Saquon Barkley, QB Daniel Jones On Future In New York

Running back Saquon Barkley and quarterback Daniel Jones have given the Giants’ front office a lot to think about in contract years. Jones was drafted in the first round a year after Barkley, but with New York declining his fifth-year option, Jones will join Barkley in free agency this offseason.

Barkley has been fairly straightforward about his intentions. “I wanted to show them the guy they drafted is still here,” he told reporters, according to Mike Garafolo of NFL Network. “Everyone knows I would love to be a Giant for life, but I really can’t give 100 percent answers.”

Barkley certainly proved what he set out to show. This year, Barkley had his best season since he won AP Offensive Rookie of the Year in 2018, earning his second career Pro Bowl bid. This was a much-needed big year for the 25-year-old from Penn State. He showed he could stay healthy for a full season after missing multiple games in each of the three years following his rookie campaign. In doing so, Barkley also proved his early-career production was no fluke. Just like in 2018, Barkley broke 1,300 rushing yards and reached double-digit touchdown numbers.

When Barkley was asked about what he’s looking for in a new contract, ESPN’s Jordan Raanan quoted him as saying, “I’m not really too concerned with resetting the [running back] market. I’m realistic.”

It’s reasonable for Barkley to take into account his injury history when considering how his new contract will rank all-time for the position. The silver lining of the situation is that, while his contract may not reach all-time heights, he should receive one of the richer contracts this offseason for a running back. Besides Raiders running back Josh Jacobs, Barkley had perhaps the most impressive contract year for any running back. Not only that, but an impressive field of free agent running backs should drive up the price for the top end prospects at the position like Barkley and Jacobs.

Jones, on the other hand, has not been nearly as forward with his intentions, until very recently. When asked to comment on reports that he and the Giants are close to an extension, Jones responded that he doesn’t “think there’s much truth” to the report, according to Ryan Dunleavy of the NY Post. Following a much-discussed non-answer from last night, Dunleavy further reported that Jones also clarified the situation saying that he loves the Giants and would prefer to stay in New York as long as the “business side” works out.

On the business side, Jones similarly gave New York a bit to think about. Like Barkley, Jones had his best season since his rookie campaign in 2019. Jones has always been pretty good at protecting the ball but went to another level this year when he led the NFL in interceptions per attempt.

Jones may not demand top-tier money as a free agent quarterback but leading the team to the playoffs for the first time since 2016 should help boost his value a bit. The biggest free agent quarterbacks this offseason are obviously going to be Lamar Jackson and Tom Brady, but after them, Jones will be competing for value with the likes of Geno Smith, Sam Darnold, Baker Mayfield, Jimmy Garoppolo, and others.

For what it’s worth, Fox Sports’ Ralph Vacchiano claims that there is little doubt that Jones and Barkley will return to New York next season. The only issue comes down to the details of how. Can both Jones and Barkley reach new deals with the team that drafted them? Will either of them get richer offers with other teams? Will the two be unable to reach new deals at all and find themselves playing under the franchise tag in 2023?

Both have made it known that there is a desire to stay with the Giants. Now, it will be up to general manager Joe Schoen and company in the front office to figure out how to keep them in blue.

Giants’ Initial Saquon Barkley Offer In $12MM-Per-Year Range?

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.

Giants Eyeing New Deals For Daniel Jones, Saquon Barkley

The Giants clinched their first playoff berth since 2016 this afternoon, as their surprisingly successful campaign continues. Much of the team’s performance has been attributed to new head coach Brian Daboll, but two key starters on offense have been integral as well.

Quarterback Daniel Jones and running back Saquon Barkley entered this season with varying levels of expectation and plenty of uncertainty given their statuses as pending free agents. Updates throughout the season have illustrated the team’s priorities with respect to which (if not both) players will be targeted for deals keeping them in New York through 2023. Both long-term contracts and a franchise tag are on the table, and the team’s move with one will no doubt heavily impact their actions with the other.

Providing the latest update on the situation, NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport reports that the Giants see both players as franchise contributors for 2023 “and beyond” (video link). As such, he adds, they will look to get deals done with each of them, though the presence of the franchise tag likely makes multi-year deals for both of them a stretch. Rapoport also notes, unsurprisingly, that New York will have a price point which they will not exceed during upcoming negotiations.

The Giants’ new regime under Daboll and GM Joe Schoen reportedly doubted the upside Jones would provide if he were to be retained as a long-term solution under center at the start of the campaign. The former sixth overall pick has gone on to have a career-year in spite of an injury-riddled, talent-deprived pass-catching corps surrounding him, however. His signs of improvement made it noteworthy when no contract talks were held during the team’s bye week. His continued impressive play makes the Duke product an interesting case study in how the organization will handle their first two major negotiations since the coaching and front office changes.

As for Barkley, the situation has been notably different on a number of levels given his undisputed talent and production when healthy. With the Giants believing his injury issues are behind him, he was involved in bye week extension talks. Given his position, the former second overall pick would be a more logical tag candidate than Jones; the one-year pacts are projected to carry a difference of roughly $22MM next year. However, New York has reportedly been willing to commit to a big-ticket second contract with Barkley, who entered today ranked fourth in the league with 1,254 rushing yards.

Jones and Barkley will be significant factors in any postseason success the Giants have this year, as the team continues to weigh its options on how they handle this situation. Regardless of the outcome, their intention of keeping both in the fold for at least the short- and intermediate-term future is clear.

Giants, QB Daniel Jones Did Not Engage In Extension Talks

The Giants and quarterback Daniel Jones did not engage in extension discussions prior to GM Joe Schoen‘s self-imposed Week 10 deadline to talk contract, as Jordan Raanan of ESPN.com writes. So, as expected, the contract situations of Jones and running back Saquon Barkley — both of whom are eligible for unrestricted free agency in March — will be atop Schoen’s agenda this offseason.

Interestingly, Schoen did engage in extension negotiations with Barkley and defensive back Julian Love during New York’s Week 9 bye, and while those conversations did not lead to a new deal for either player, it is notable that Giants brass did not at least check in with Jones’ camp. That is especially true in light of September reports that Schoen and first-year head coach Brian Daboll harbored “major concerns” about Jones’ viability as a long-term option.

Since those earlier reports, New York has gone 6-4, and Jones has performed much better under Daboll than he did during his first three years in the league. Still, as Raanan acknowledges, there is a difference between being a legitimate NFL starter and being a franchise cornerstone, and it is unclear if Jones’ improved play in 2022 has been enough to convince the team that he is worthy of a lengthy accord.

Indeed, Jones has not played especially well over the last two games, both of which resulted in losses that have threatened to sour a pleasantly-surprising season. On the other hand, his 58.5 QBR — supported by a 10:4 TD:INT ratio and 64.6% completion percentage — is the 10th-best mark in the NFL. He has already set career-highs with 451 rushing yards and four rushing scores, and he has compiled those numbers on a strong 5.7 YPC rate. He has also led four fourth-quarter comebacks this season, and the team’s dearth of receiving talent has made his work more impressive.

One NFC general manager tells Raanan that the Giants’ best option would be to re-sign Jones this offseason, but a different NFC exec says he does not see Jones as a franchise player. Yet another NFC exec sees Jones as a bridge option and believes a one-year, $15MM-$20MM deal would make the most sense for the Giants. However, former GM Mike Tannenbaum thinks Jones is an “ascending player” who can reasonably expect a multi-year deal worth ~$25MM/year, especially given the supply-and-demand dynamics of the QB market that benefit even flawed signal-callers.

Whether Schoen is willing to pay Jones that type of money remains to be seen, and his decision may be impacted (to some degree) by Barkley’s situation. Former NFL agent Joel Corry projects the franchise tag for RBs to come in at roughly $10.1MM, which is a better number than the ~$12MM projections that have been floated and which is much more appealing than the projected ~$31.5MM franchise tag figure for QBs (via Dan Duggan of The Athletic on Twitter).

That said, the Giants are reportedly willing to pony up a top-of-the-market contract for Barkley, and Ryan Dunleavy of the New York Post says talks between player and team were encouraging. Perhaps a multi-year contract for Barkley — which will allow the team to smooth out his 2023 cap hit — coupled with a tag for Jones will be the most satisfactory result for all parties involved.

Giants Prepared To Pay Saquon Barkley Top-Market Money?

As Saquon Barkley continues to display the All-Pro-caliber form he did during the late 2010s, the Giants are quickly warming up to the prospect of keeping him around beyond his rookie contract.

A franchise tag presents a complicated situation, with Daniel Jones also having played better under Brian Daboll than he did for most of his first three seasons. The Giants will be able to keep either Jones or Barkley off the 2023 market with the tag. A Barkley tag would come in around $12MM, which would be a far easier price to stomach compared to a quarterback franchise or transition tag. But the team might be eyeing a Barkley extension and Jones tag.

The Giants are not afraid to pay top-market money to keep Barkley, according to Fox Sports’ Ralph Vacchiano. While injuries stonewalled Barkley’s path in recent years, Vacchiano adds the Giants believe he is over those issues. The running back position brings considerable risk from health and wear-and-tear perspectives, making Barkley, 25, a riskier investment. But he has continued to deliver in what has become a monster contract year.

The former No. 2 overall pick leads the NFL with 931 rushing yards. He is coming off an old-school, 35-carry outing against the Texans. For a Giants team that has seen its receiver situation — largely through its own mistakes — crater to the point a player (Darius Slayton) the team tried for months to trade has re-emerged as Jones’ top target, Barkley has been a vital component of this surprising 7-2 start. Contract talks took place during New York’s bye week, but Vacchiano indicates these were not expected to produce a deal. The bye week instead doubled as a window to gauge what Barkley’s camp was seeking on a long-term accord.

Considering Barkley’s renewed health, value to the team and the salary cap set to come in well north of where it was the last time the running back market’s ceiling moved (2020), it should be expected the Giants will need to match or top Christian McCaffrey‘s $16MM-per-year price. With the Giants being open to trading Barkley this past offseason, the team being prepared to reach this price range to keep him represents quite the turnaround.

Following Big Blue’s Week 10 win, Barkley said he wanted to be a “Giant for life” (Twitter link via SNY). This differs from how Barkley addressed his impending free agency in September. While it could have been in his best interests to take a high-end deal now, the dynamic back’s bet on himself has been beneficial so far. This situation is pointing to Barkley being either tagged or extended come 2023. Barkley’s goal of a top-market pact, however, may require him to avoid another significant injury over the Giants’ final eight games.

Giants Table Contract Talks With RB Saquon Barkley

The Giants and running back Saquon Barkley engaged in contract negotiations during their bye week, as Ian Rapoport and Mike Garafolo of NFL.com report. The two sides “did not come close” to reaching an agreement, per Adam Schefter of ESPN.com, so talks will be tabled until after the season.

Earlier this month, we learned that New York GM Joe Schoen and Barkley had discussed the possibility of an extension, and we also heard that Schoen did not want negotiations with any of his players to continue beyond the bye week. So, now that the bye is in the rearview mirror — and given that the Giants-Barkley talks apparently did not generate much momentum — Barkley will play out the remainder of the season without a new contract in place.

Per Rapoport and Garafolo, Barkley wants to be paid at or near the top of the RB market, which is presently topped by Christian McCaffrey‘s $16MM/year accord that features $30MM in full guarantees. Barkley’s camp sees McCaffrey as a direct comparable, and they have plenty of support for their position. In 2022, Barkley is averaging nearly 100 rushing yards per game while maintaining an excellent 4.8 YPC rate. He is not being used as much as a receiver as he was during his dynamic rookie season in 2018, but he is still plenty capable in that regard, having caught 28 balls for 189 yards through eight games.

Another arrow in Barkley’s quiver is the fact that the salary cap will be considerably higher than it was when many of his well-compensated peers — McCaffrey, Derrick Henry, and Dalvin Cook, for example — signed their deals. On the other hand, the Giants’ reticence to authorize a record-setting contract is explained by Barkley’s injury history, a crowded free agent class of running backs, and the relative value of the running back position.

Dan Duggan of The Athletic believes a franchise tag for Barkley — which is expected to check in at about $12MM — is inevitable (Twitter link). The problem is that QB Daniel Jones is also eligible for free agency in 2023 since the Giants declined to exercise the fifth-year option of his rookie deal, and Big Blue may want to deploy a franchise or transition tag on him. As a team can only use one tag per season, Schoen could have a difficult decision to make. However, he will be armed with at least $60MM in cap space due to his salary-shedding maneuvers this offseason, so he will have options as he navigates several difficult contractual situations.

Rapoport and Garafolo add that the Giants also talked contract with 2019 fourth-rounder Julian Love during the bye. The versatile DB has seen a significant spike in playing time in his platform campaign, as his 92% defensive snap share is easily the highest mark of his career. He has posted 58 tackles and an interception and is currently ranked as Pro Football Focus’ 34th-best safety out of 84 qualifiers. Like Barkley, Love will still be seeking a new deal when the calendar flips to 2023.

Giants Eyeing Saquon Barkley Extension; Franchise Tag In Play

Saquon Barkley‘s comeback season features the former Offensive Rookie of the Year sitting second in rushing yards as the Giants hit their bye week. The injury-prone running back has worked his way back onto the extension radar, and the Giants’ new regime appears onboard with a second Barkley contract.

After listening on Barkley trade interest this offseason, Giants GM Joe Schoen has spoken to the fifth-year running back about an extension.

Saquon and I have a great relationship. I told him I’d like him to be here, and I think he’s in the same boat,” Schoen said during an appearance on WFAN’s Tiki & Tierney. “We’ll see if we can work something out here at some point.

He’s a guy we’re gonna do our due diligence on. We’d like to keep him around here. We can get into the contract extension talks … decide a value for the player, where we see him and why, and then knowing we have the franchise tag as a tool in the toolbox.”

A Barkley extension emerged as a possibility last year, when the regime that drafted him was still at the controls, but died down after the Penn State product went down with an early-season ankle injury. Barkley did not establish much momentum in the weeks that followed, though just about no Giant did in a miserable finish to the 2021 campaign, and no extension buzz surfaced this offseason. Barkley, 25, was more closely connected to being moved.

We explored the prospect of a Barkley extension in September, but now that the former No. 2 overall pick has submitted more evidence of being back to his pre-ACL-tear version, the floor for an extension looks to have risen. Barkley sits second behind Nick Chubb in rushing yards (779) and ranks behind only Tyreek Hill in scrimmage yards (986). Then again, the running back market has not moved in a while. Christian McCaffrey, Alvin Kamara and Ezekiel Elliott still reside atop this position group, AAV-wise, on deals from 2020 (CMC, Kamara) and 2019 (Zeke). Those big-money extensions — at or north of $15MM per year — have generated mixed returns as well.

Barkley’s value to the Giants, a stalled running back market, a crowded backfield class headed toward free agency and the salary cap disparity between 2020 ($198.2MM) and 2023 (perhaps north of $220MM) complicate a potential deal. So does Barkley’s injury history, which hovers over the rest of the dynamic back’s season as well. But if Schoen is correct in noting Barkley wants to stay in New York as well, the process could be easier.

If the Giants were to tag Barkley, it would not be too expensive. Last year, the running back tag came in at just $9.57MM. After battling through cap trouble this offseason, Big Blue’s new regime is projected to have at least $60MM in funds next year. Barkley is playing on a $7.23MM fifth-year option, but unlike most running backs, he came into the league with a monster payday. With the fifth-year option added to his bank account, Barkley will move beyond $38MM in career earnings at season’s end.

Daniel Jones‘ status could conceivably interfere with a Barkley tag, however. While both the franchise and transition tags are available to teams, only one can be used per offseason. Jones has been mentioned as a candidate for the seldom-used transition tag, which locks in a lesser amount but gives other teams more flexibility to negotiate with the player. Schoen said (via The Athletic’s Dan Duggan) the fourth-year quarterback is still being evaluated. A QB transition tag, projected at roughly $28MM, would be much more expensive than a running back franchise tag.

Jones’ improved play, with a bottom-tier receiving corps, further stands to complicate the Giants’ 2023 offseason. While Schoen is open to negotiating with players this week, Duggan adds, he does not wish to do so once the Giants’ bye wraps. That would table the Barkley and Jones matters to January. Two players who looked to be on the way out with the organization are suddenly back in the long-term picture, injecting more intrigue into the surprising team’s status.

Extension Candidate: Saquon Barkley

Through two games, Saquon Barkley is the NFL’s rushing leader. Barkley’s 236 yards are obviously a big reason why the Giants have jumped out to a 2-0 start. This marks a positive development for Barkley, who lingered as a low-key trade candidate this offseason.

The Joe SchoenBrian Daboll regime inherited Barkley, who had slid from one of the best running back prospects in modern NFL history to a player whose Giants future was in doubt because of injury trouble. Barkley’s resurgence may need to continue for a bit before the new Giants front office considers extension talks, but on a team that has seen a strange receiver situation cloud its long-term outlook at that position, Barkley could fit as a second-contract piece.

It sounds like the former No. 2 overall pick will be willing to negotiate in-season with the Giants. That was his stance last year, though the early-season ankle sprain he suffered made it three straight years of injury trouble and moved a possible extension well off the radar. Barkley, 25, is now playing on a $7.22MM fifth-year option. Despite Barkley’s injury history, he dropped an early indication he would be willing to play out that option year.

Any time an athlete bets on himself and goes out there and performs at a high level, you love to see that,” Barkley said, via Ryan Dunleavy of the New York Post. “Whether it’s football, whether it’s baseball, whether it’s basketball, I want all athletes to get what they deserve.”

Since the 2011 CBA introduced the fifth-year option, Barkley is just the second running back to play on it. Melvin Gordon played on the option in 2019, doing so after holding out to start that season. He left Los Angeles in free agency in 2020. With Barkley having shown a higher NFL ceiling — one sidetracked by injuries — this situation brings a bit more intrigue. The Giants have not seen one of their first-round picks play beyond five seasons with the team since 2010 first-rounder Jason Pierre-Paul.

Thanks largely to the 2017 draft class, first and second tiers have formed in the running back market. Christian McCaffrey, Ezekiel Elliott and Alvin Kamara secured deals at or north of $15MM per year. McCaffrey’s $16MM-AAV Panthers pact — agreed to in March 2020 — still leads the way. From July 2020 to March 2021, the second tier emerged. Derrick Henry, Joe Mixon, Dalvin Cook and Aaron Jones signed deals worth between $12MM and $12.5MM per year. Nick Chubb, part of Barkley’s 2018 draft class, fell in line by signing a $12.2MM-per-year Browns extension in July 2021.

Seven members of the 2017 class, which also includes former UDFA Austin Ekeler, signed upper-echelon or midlevel second contracts with their respective teams. Chris Carson was the only one to do so after reaching free agency. Not all of these contracts have worked out. McCaffrey has battled injuries, and Carson suffered a career-ending neck injury. But most of the recent extension recipients remain on steady trajectories after being paid. This wave of payments cresting after the likes of Le’Veon Bell, Todd Gurley and David Johnson did not justify their contracts has made for an interesting stretch.

These $12MM-$16MM-per-year deals have created a roadmap for a Barkley re-up, though it remains to be seen if the Schoen-Daboll operation views him in that way or will be one to extend a running back. The Giants are not believed to have shopped Barkley, they took trade calls on him before the draft. Barkley’s skillset would make him a candidate for a McCaffrey- or Kamara-type contract. His injury history, and perhaps McCaffrey’s post-extension health issues, could nix that reality. The talented Giants back continuing this early pace and showing the kind of form he did as a rookie (NFL-high 2,028 scrimmage yards) and when healthy in 2019 — behind shaky offensive lines in each season — could change the equation.

The Giants entering discussions with Barkley this season could allow them to lock down their top playmaker and give the injury-prone back some security. Barkley’s 2019 high ankle sprain, 2020 ACL and MCL tears and his 2021 ankle issue threw his career off course, but the team is unlikely to have a big-ticket receiver contract or a franchise-quarterback deal on its 2023 books. Kenny Golladay, Darius Slayton, Sterling Shepard and perhaps Kadarius Toney, the way that partnership is going, have uncertain post-2022 futures in New York. Ditto Daniel Jones, who did not see his fifth-year option exercised. After entering this offseason in salary cap trouble, the Giants are projected to be in the top five in 2023 space.

If no Barkley extension occurs this year, he would be headed for free agency. A franchise tag, which CBS Sports’ Joel Corry projects to come in around $10.1MM, would then be an option for the Giants. The Steelers went to this well with Bell, twice; the second time caused quite the stir in 2018. The tag would, however, be a way for the Giants to extend this partnership without committing long-term to a player at such a volatile position. Barkley will have banked more than $38MM on his rookie contract, separating him from most modern backs. Through that lens, an extension would be less financially important for his future. Should Barkley be on a Pro Bowl pace by midseason, it would be interesting to see if he would entertain an extension in the $12MM-AAV range — especially with the cap rising again — or push this situation to the March 2023 tag deadline.

Barkley hitting free agency next year would, should he avoid a severe injury this season, place a top-tier running back in a crowded marketplace. Kareem Hunt, Josh Jacobs, Miles Sanders, David Montgomery and Damien Harris are among the running backs on expiring contracts. We have a long way to go before the prospect of Barkley hitting the market emerges, but his nice start to a contract year opens the door to a few possible futures. Which one will end up transpiring?