Saquon Barkley

Giants Sign Saquon Barkley

The Giants have signed first-round running back Saquon Barkley, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (Twitter link).

Barkley, the second overall pick in the 2018 draft, will receive a fully guaranteed four-year deal worth $31.2MM, per Rapoport. The pact also contains a $20.76MM signing bonus, $15MM of which he’ll receive immediately. The remainder of Barkley’s bonus will be paid out by October.

With Barkley under contract, only eight 2018 draft selections remain unsigned, and the majority of those players are first-rounders. Reports earlier this year indicated offset language was the primary driver in first-round pick negotiations. Thanks to the slotting system for rookie deals, and the fact that first-round picks are nearly always guaranteed the entirety of their deals, offset language is the only area left for haggling.

Offset language does exist in Barkley’s deal, tweets Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk. That means Barkley won’t be allowed to “double-dip” — i.e. collect extra salary from a new team — in the event that he’s released during the next four seasons. Obviously, the Giants are hoping that a Barkley release will not occur over the life of his contract, but the club has protected itself nevertheless.

New York chose Barkley near the top of the first round instead of picking a potential franchise quarterback, a decision that could be analyzed for years to come. But Barkley figures to be one of the primary pieces of the Giants’ offense in 2018, as he’ll run behind a revamped offensive line that includes free agent acquisition Nate Solder at tackle and second-rounder Will Hernandez at guard.

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Poll: Which Rookie RB Will Rush For Most Yards In 2018?

In selecting their third first-round running back of this century, the Giants continued to show how they regard this position despite its marginalization over the past several years. Saquon Barkley is the odds-on favorite to win offensive rookie of the year.

However, the running back position produces annual mid- or late-round surprises — from Devonta Freeman to Jordan Howard to Kareem Hunt — that end up providing immense value to certain teams. The Giants obviously have an incredibly gifted ball-carrier set to take handoffs from Eli Manning, but which of Barkley’s peers is in the best position to challenge him (and the quarterback contingent) for the OROY honor?

The other two first-round RBs look to be less equipped for a strong challenge due to circumstances.

Sony Michel‘s prospects of being an immediate ground producer may have been better on a different team. While the Patriots boast one of the NFL’s best offensive lines, Bill Belichick notoriously finds myriad usages for his backs and involves nearly all of them. Although, Dion Lewis‘ departure after a 180-carry season opens the door for someone to take over as New England’s primary back. And Michel averaged 7.9 yards per carry on 156 totes at Georgia last season. Rashaad Penny looks to be behind Chris Carson to start the season, and the surprise first-rounder may be given time to develop for a Seattle team that’s struggled on the ground for a few years now.

After Round 1, however, it becomes a bit more interesting. The Buccaneers did not possess a formidable depth chart at running back prior to investing their second-round pick in USC’s Ronald Jones. In 2017, Jones rushed for 1,550 yards and scored 20 total touchdowns. He could well be an early-season starter, with the likes of Jacquizz Rodgers and Peyton Barber in his path toward a first-string role. Chosen just before Jones, Nick Chubb will have to contend with Carlos Hyde in Cleveland this season for the revamped Browns. Chubb, though, notched three 1,000-yard seasons in the nation’s toughest conference.

Kerryon Johnson looks to be set to start in a committee in Detroit, but the Lions have been desperate for a surefire ground producer for years now. And they view Johnson as a three-down backLeGarrette Blount and Ameer Abdullah reside in the Motor City carries picture, but neither would impede Johnson from a major role if he proves ready from the outset. Derrius Guice could have a quicker path to playing time in Washington. Considered by some the second-best back in this draft, the LSU product fell largely because of character concerns. However, Guice averaged 7.6 yards per carry in 2016 on nearly 200 attempts and is expected to push for the Redskins’ starting job from the start.

Also expected to challenge for an early role: the Broncos’ Royce Freeman. The Oregon-developed talent posted three 1,300-plus-yard seasons with the Ducks, amassing a staggering 947 college carries. With the Broncos having moved on from four-year starter C.J. Anderson, only Devontae Booker (299 rushing yards last season) resides in the third-rounder’s path. Is he a threat to be the 2018 version of Hunt?

As for Barkley, he has the most obvious route to a full-time gig. Despite Jonathan Stewart now being in the Big Apple, the Penn State dynamo will factor in from the start of the Giants’ season. And the three-down back totaled at least 2,300 yards from scrimmage in back-to-back years for the Nittany Lions. The Giants have questions up front, having lost Justin Pugh and Weston Richburg, but they added multiple UFAs — spearheaded by Nate Solder — and chose likely Day 1 starter Will Hernandez in Round 2.

So, will Barkley’s situation be too much for the rest of this class to overcome, a la Ezekiel Elliott? Or will one of the later-round picks emerge in Hunt fashion? Is there a Day 3 dark horse in this year’s class in the mold of Freeman or Howard? Take PFR’s latest poll and weigh in with your thoughts in the comments section!

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Offset Language Holding Up Top 10 Picks

There are 15 unsigned rookies left, and seven of them are in the top 10. The holdup for this year’s highest selections is offset language, a league source tells Mike Florio of PFT

Players with offset language who are cut before the end of their rookie contract have the remaining guaranteed money reduced by whatever they earns elsewhere. Without offset language, players get to double dip. Top 10 picks expect to complete their rookie contracts, but it’s an important issue for agents nonetheless.

The following top 10 players are without deals and there’s a common thread in the representation for most of them:

As Florio notes, CAA also represents No. 6 overall pick Quenton Nelson. The new Colts guard agreed to terms back in May on a deal that contains offset language, but also includes large guaranteed training-camp roster bonuses in 2019 through 2021. The presence of those bonuses effectively offsets the presence of offsets and could be a good middle ground solution for the agency’s remaining unsigned top 10 picks.

There’s no sign of real acrimony between any of these players and the teams that drafted them, but Joey Bosa‘s situation in 2016 serves as a reminder that offset language can become a real issue that can lead to a training camp holdout.

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Browns Rumors: Mayfield, Haley, Ward

While the Baker Mayfield/Browns noise didn’t intensify until draft week, the newly assembled front office viewed the Oklahoma product well independently before arriving in Cleveland. John Dorsey, Eliot Wolf and consultant Scot McCloughan all had Mayfield atop the quarterback class, Mary Kay Cabot of cleveland.com notes, with Alonzo Highsmith subsequently joining them. Using the Packers’ grading system the Browns do now, Dorsey, Wolf and McCloughan — who has long praised the 2017 Heisman Trophy recipient — each put Mayfield atop their respective lists prior to coming to Cleveland. While a report emerged earlier this week indicating Sam Darnold may well have been more teams’ top-rated QB in this class, Cabot reports four teams — three AFC squads and one in the NFC — had Mayfield as this class’ No. 1 quarterback. Two other teams, per Cabot, provided strong indications he was their top QB choice.

Here’s the latest from Cleveland, including more about the Browns’ signal-caller situation.

  • While the Browns are certainly higher on Mayfield than they were on DeShone Kizer or Cody Kessler, the memories of neither rookie winning a game are still fresh with Hue Jackson. And he reiterated this weekend he’s not going to deviate from Tyrod Taylor atop the QB depth chart. “I’m not going to back off of this,” Jackson said, via Cabot. “We can keep writing this narrative, Tyrod Taylor’s the starting quarterback of this football team, and that won’t change. … Tyrod has demonstrated every day what it’s like to be a starting quarterback in the National Football League. I want some of that to rub off on (Mayfield) so he can see firsthand what it means to play quarterback in the National Football League. Baker doesn’t know.”
  • The Browns had close to the same grade on Mayfield and Saquon Barkley, Pat McManamon of ESPN.com notes. While this could mean the Browns placed a slightly higher grade on the Penn State-produced running back, Dorsey felt the need at quarterback and the fact he could land a promising running back prospect in the second round (Nick Chubb went to Cleveland at No. 35) tipped the scales for Mayfield. Cleveland was long connected to a quarterback at No. 1, and Barkley was not believed to be a serious consideration.
  • Todd Haley‘s arrival in northeast Ohio will mean full autonomy of the Browns’ offense, Dan Graziano of ESPN.com notes. Both Jackson and Mayfield will spend time this summer learning Haley’s playbook. Jackson will be taking a CEO-style approach this year instead of calling plays, as he has the past two seasons. But it still sounds like some of the third-year HC’s concepts will be included in Haley’s offense.
  • The Browns had Denzel Ward and Bradley Chubb ranked equally on their board, and need won out, Dorsey said during a radio interview on 92.3 The Fan (via Cabot). Ward’s ability to play press coverage well made him DC Gregg Williams‘ preference, too.

Draft QB Fallout: Darnold, Allen, Mayfield

A draft that produced one of the longest rumor cycles surrounding quarterbacks in recent memory continues to generate fallout. And some of it centers on the quarterback that fell to No. 3.

Among the emotions expressed in the Jets’ war room after the Giants chose Saquon Barkley over Sam Darnold were disbelief and joy, per Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News. But the Giants weren’t the only team many NFL executives and scouts believe helped out the Jets.

The Browns’ Baker Mayfield pick went against the grain, with Matt Miller of Bleacher Report writing that he only confirmed two teams — the Browns and Patriots — that rated the 2017 Heisman Trophy winner as the top quarterback in this draft. Conversely, 15 different teams rated Darnold as their top QB, Miller reports.

Mike Maccagnan decided to keep an airtight lid on his quarterback hierarchy, only informing Christopher Johnson and Todd Bowles of which signal-caller he had as his top-rated passer. The fourth-year Jets GM didn’t bother to assign final grades to the top five QBs in fear of that information seeping out, but grades were given to every other player on the Jets’ board, per Mehta. While the precise order here is not known, Mehta reports Darnold was the Jets’ top-rated passing prospect — one the team did not think would get past the Browns at No. 1 until very late in the process.

The Jets weren’t certain the Giants would pass on Darnold, either, but were aware of Dave Gettleman‘s interest in Barkley. One source informed Miller that Gettleman, indeed, did not pick up the phone regarding trade interest in the No. 2 overall pick. While Gettleman himself confirmed one team made a strong offer for No. 2, it’s unclear when on draft night that proposal emerged. Wowed by none of these QBs, the Giants did not have a consensus on which of these players was the best prospect.

While the Cardinals wound up with Josh Rosen, Miller reports Josh Allen was their top-rated quarterback. The team that actually drafted Allen, the Bills, had the Wyoming talent rated as this class’ No. 2 passer, Miller reports. Buffalo was one of the teams that viewed Darnold as this draft’s top QB.

No reports of Allen visiting the Cardinals emerged until he confirmed just before the draft he took a trip to Arizona. Miller notes the Cards may have tried to trade up for Allen prior to landing Rosen. Additionally, the Twitter controversy did not appear to affect Allen’s stock. Miller adds no sources indicated that played a role in their teams’ respective assessments of Allen.

Giants Did Not Have Consensus On Draft’s Top QB

The Giants were enamored with Saquon Barkley to the point they didn’t waste much time turning in their card. And the team is now prepared to enter the season without a surefire heir apparent behind Eli Manning.

It turns out, Big Blue’s brass didn’t appear to have a consensus among which of the quarterbacks they would take, with Paul Schwartz of the New York Post reporting different sects of the Giants’ decision-makers preferred three separate signal-callers. And they didn’t feel strongly enough about one of them to pull the trigger at No. 2.

Mostly, the Giants were down to Sam Darnold or Josh Allen, with some Josh Rosen support in the building as well. Schwartz reports there wasn’t much love for Baker Mayfield among the new-look Giants power structure.

If it were up to Pat Shurmur, Allen would have been the quarterback pick — had the franchise been leaning in that direction. Upside drew Shurmur to Allen. However, the Giants would have selected Bradley Chubb if Barkley wasn’t available, per Schwartz.

The Giants placed the same grade on Barkley and Chubb, but the Penn State running back was listed atop Chubb’s name on Big Blue’s board. They proceeded accordingly, and are “ecstatic,” Schwartz writes.

Additionally, Schwartz lists second-round pick Will Hernandez as a near-surefire starter at guard. Hernandez caught the Giants’ eye at the Senior Bowl, and one staffer told Schwartz the the team’s consensus was the UTEP lineman’s Combine performance would not have him available by the time New York’s second-round window opened. The Giants signed Patrick Omameh in free agency and still have returning starter John Jerry on the roster. And Schwartz adds that Lorenzo Carter could well get a strong push to start ahead of free agency addition Kareem Martin, the latter’s knowledge of James Bettcher’s system notwithstanding.

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Draft Notes: Ravens, Seahawks, Saints, Browns

Let’s take a look at some assorted notes as we get ready for the start of the draft…

  • There are a number of teams currently picking in the twenties that would be interested in moving up to the teens, reports Jason La Canfora (via Twitter). Interestingly, those teams may have some suitors, as the reporter notes that the Ravens and Seahawks are among the teams interested in trading back.
  • Saints assistant general manager Jeff Ireland told Josh Katzenstein of The Times-Picayune that running back Saquon Barkley is the top player on their draft board (Twitter link). “He’s rare,” Ireland gushed. “He’s unique.” Of course, barring some crazy development, the Saints are unlikely to have an opportunity to select Barkley, as they’re only armed with one pick in the first two rounds. Plus, the team is already rostering several talented running backs, including Alvin Kamara and Mark Ingram.
  • There could end up being a flurry of trades if the Browns select Baker Mayfield with the first-overall pick, according to NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport (via Twitter video). All of the potential scenarios have seemingly stalled trade talks, although Rapoport notes that the Browns (No. 4), Broncos (No. 5), and Colts (No. 6) are among the teams who’d consider moving down. The Bills could be among the teams looking to trade into the top-six range, and the Broncos could ultimately choose to keep their pick if someone like Josh Allen falls into their lap.
  • Rapoport also notes (via Twitter) that several prospects are expected to be selected earlier than initially thought: Maryland wideout D.J. Moore, UTSA defensive end Marcus Davenport, and Louisville Jaire Alexander. Davenport and Alexander both landed in the top-20 of Daniel Jeremiah’s rankings, while Moore was listed 37th.

Giants Could Still Trade No. 2 Pick

A trade of the No. 2 pick is still a possibility for the Giants, sources tell Jordan Raanan of ESPN.com (on Twitter). If they keep the No. 2 pick, Penn State running back Saquon Barkley and NC State defensive end Bradley Chubb are viewed as the favorites to be selected. However, the potential presence of USC’s Sam Darnold could change things.

The Giants – and those around the Giants – would have better clarity on their plans if they knew what the Browns were planning to do with the No. 1 overall pick. The Browns have left everyone around the NFL guessing and no one knows for sure if they’ll go with Darnold, Oklahoma’s Baker Mayfield, or perhaps even Wyoming’s Josh Allen. At this point, the entire world might find out the identity of the top pick together when commissioner Roger Goodell takes the podium tonight.

On paper, selecting Sam Darnold as Eli Manning’s successor would be a huge win for the G-Men, but they are reportedly less than enamored with this year’s QB crop. If the Giants are willing to pass up a chance to select Barkley or Chubb, they could net a tremendous haul to swap places with a team dead set on landing a QB.

Poll: Who Will Browns Take At No. 1 Overall?

In one of the wilder lead-ups to a draft in many years, the Browns have been connected to several players with their No. 1 overall pick. The quarterback-desperate franchise is almost certain to announce its expected Tyrod Taylor successor tonight, but the buildup to that moment has been a process featuring many twists and turns.

Having bypassed Carson Wentz and Deshaun Watson the past two years, the Browns have now been linked to three quarterbacks at No. 1. The latest could be one of the most unique first-overall picks in memory.

The Browns are now strongly connected to Baker Mayfield, the Heisman Trophy winner and a player who did not appear in the top half of the first round of Todd McShay’s first offseason mock draft. But John Dorsey brought on former Redskins GM Scot McCloughan as a consultant before the draft, and the longtime scouting guru has been an outspoken proponent of the polarizing Oklahoma-developed quarterback. The news the Browns will take Mayfield at No. 1 emerged this week, and that rumor is rapidly gaining steam.

However, the Browns’ previous debate was believed to be a two-horse race between Sam Darnold and Josh Allen. Dorsey has a history of selecting big-armed passers or being affiliated with organizations which have done so, most recently pulling the trigger on Patrick Mahomes in his final draft as Chiefs GM. Viewed as a high-ceiling, low-floor prospect, Allen would represent that kind of bold choice. A report earlier this week indicated Cleveland was down to the Wyoming prodigy or the fast-rising Mayfield.

Darnold has gone from a player viewed as arguably the best combination of production and upside to one that may fall out of the top two and be there for the Jets at No. 3. The Jets scheduled a Darnold visit once they began to sense the USC product falling to them was a legitimate possibility.

The Browns have also been linked to Saquon Barkley at No. 1. While Barkley is viewed as the top running back and possibly the No. 1 overall player in this prospect pool, it’s hard to believe the Browns would again bypass their chance at landing a possible franchise quarterback.

They have not been closely tied to Josh Rosen during this pre-draft stretch, and the latest on a trade-down occurrence is that line of thinking could transpire with the Browns’ No. 4 pick rather than their No. 1 choice.

So, which passer will be bound for northeast Ohio? Is the Mayfield surge legitimate or a massive smokescreen operation? Does Allen’s upside, the unearthing of several tweets from his high school days notwithstanding, warrant this kind of an investment? Or should the Browns take the player they’ve been most connected to in Darnold with the top pick? How about a trade-down scenario? Vote in PFR’s latest poll and weigh in with your thoughts in the comments section!

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Community Tailgate: Giants’ Barkley Fit

With the draft four days away, the prospect of Saquon Barkley becoming the first running back to go off the board in the top two since Reggie Bush has steadily increased. The Giants/Barkley noise has intensified.

The Giants hold their highest pick since 1981, when they chose Lawrence Taylor at No. 2, and have a quarterback who is set to play his age-37 season in 2018. With all but one QB likely to be available to Big Blue at No. 2, it could be argued — as some in the organization appear to have done — the Giants should not forgo a chance to add a possible Eli Manning successor only to draft this year’s best running back prospect. They have not held a top-five selection since the Manning trade 14 years ago, so it can’t be considered a lock they’ll have this opportunity again soon.

New York also has needs on its offensive line, at cornerback and on its front seven, putting a trade-down decision in play. A Bradley Chubb pick would go about meeting need and value if he is the No. 2 choice, but Barkley may well be the No. 1 prospect on the Giants’ board. And Dave Gettleman, who held key decision-making positions when the Giants used a No. 7 pick on Ron Dayne (2000) and a No. 32 choice on David Wilson (2012), does not look to believe running backs aren’t the commodities they used to be. (At least, he’s not saying so publicly.)

The Giants also need a better answer in the backfield. Jonathan Stewart is nearing the end of his career, and Paul Perkins and Wayne Gallman may be backup types. As a player who’s been rated by some high-profile draft experts as being a better prospect than Ezekiel Elliott, Barkley would surely take care of that and join an offense that would have Odell Beckham Jr., Sterling Shepard and Evan Engram (and if Dez Bryant gets his way, Dez Bryant) at the skill spots. The Penn State superstar being in that mix could change the equation for the Giants, who ranked 26th in rushing offense and scored just 15.4 points per game (31st in the league) last season. Elliott sure made an impact for the Cowboys as a rookie, but he had a much better offensive line in front of him.

The Jaguars invested a No. 4 overall pick in Leonard Fournette a year ago. He’s Jacksonville’s unquestioned starter going forward, but the Jags saw third-rounders Alvin Kamara and Kareem Hunt have superior rookie seasons. Devonta Freeman was just a fourth-round pick, and Jordan Howard went in the 2016 fifth round. Le’Veon Bell, a second-rounder, is gunning for a No. 1 receiver-level contract And this running back class is viewed as another strong group, and intriguing ball-carriers will be available on Day 2.

ESPN’s Todd McShay was definitive in his stance that Barkley will be a Giant, and the franchise’s interest in him appears to be genuine. PFR readers overwhelmingly believe that’s what will happen. The Giants had one of the 2000s’ best backfield options in Tiki Barber, but they won a Super Bowl the year after he retired and won another four years later when they ranked last in rushing. This franchise has deployed successful backs since Barber, in Brandon Jacobs and Ahmad Bradshaw, but Big Blue has shown it hasn’t necessarily needed a top-tier back to thrive in the recent past.

So, should the Giants use their top offseason resource to draft Barkley? Is he worth the team bypassing a possible long-term quarterback option when the running back position has seen its value take numerous hits this century? Or would the Giants be reaching if they took a quarterback who might not play until 2020 over a well-reviewed running back who could have an Elliott-esque effect on their offense this season? Weigh in with your thoughts in the comments section!

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