September 2nd, 2021 at 11:52am CST by Sam Robinson
The Giants’ cautious Saquon Barkley rehab plan is nearing completion, and after plenty of news about the running back’s timetable this offseason, he is moving toward playing in Week 1.
Barkley is trending toward suiting up against the Broncos next week, Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com tweets. While the Giants will not decide on Barkley’s status until next week, no setbacks appear to have occurred.
The fourth-year back suffered his knee injury — ACL and MCL tears, along with meniscus damage — in Week 2 of last year, but he did not undergo surgery until late October. Since, the Giants launched a methodical recovery effort. Barkley met various checkpoints during training camp, going through seven-on-seven drills and joint practices ahead. He did not play in the preseason.
Ex-Bronco Devontae Booker may end up receiving more work against his former team and early in the season. Booker seeing more early-season touches has been rumored since May. It remains unclear when Barkley will resume a full workload, but after the uncertainty this offseason brought regarding his recovery, a Week 1 return would be a major win for all parties here.
Dave Gettleman has come around on the prospect of a Saquon Barkley extension in 2021. The fourth-year Giants GM is now open to the prospect of hammering out a deal with the fourth-year running back during the season.
Barkley became eligible for a new deal in January, but his knee rehab has obviously clouded such prospects. The former Offensive Rookie of the Year, however, continues to progress back to full strength. Should the 24-year-old back show his previous form, he would obviously make sense as an extension candidate.
“I think that it depends upon the guy. I think it depends on where the team is at. I used to feel like it was a bad idea, but not so much [now],” Gettleman said of in-season extensions, via the New York Post’s Zach Braziller. “Have I changed my idea on that? Yes. I’m a lot more flexible on that.”
John Mara said in March the Giants were not in any hurry to extend Barkley, though the owner added he wanted the talented back to be a Giant for life. Barkley produced one of the best rookie seasons by a ball carrier in NFL history three years ago but suffered a high ankle sprain in 2019 and saw his September 2020 knee injury (ACL and MCL tears, with meniscus damage) stall his career. But Barkley came off the active/PUP list last week and went through his first seven-on-seven session Tuesday, Dan Duggan of The Athletic notes. While Barkley is not slated to participate in team drills during the Giants’ joint practices with the Browns, the team’s cautious plan with its lead back is thus far working.
“You need to see him back on the field producing, which we expect that to be the case. Our medical people feel very good about where he’s at right now,” Mara said. “I like what I’ve seen from him out on the field. Hopefully [an extension] will be an easy decision for us as well.”
Given his health history and the nature of the running back position, Barkley may want to lock in high-end money as soon as possible. Ezekiel Elliott, Alvin Kamara, Christian McCaffrey, Dalvin Cook, Joe Mixon and now Nick Chubb received extensions before their fourth seasons. Derrick Henry and Aaron Jones each signed after their fourth years. This group formed a new running back market, with average salaries ranging from $12-$16MM. And it appears the Giants are OK with Barkley joining this club in-season, provided he shows enough early in the campaign. Of course, Barkley completing a bounce-back year would set him up to potentially sign a market-topping extension in 2022. McCaffrey’s $16MM-per-year deal still leads the pack.
The Giants picking the Penn State product second overall would naturally make them eager to lock in a long-term partnership, and the cap being set to spike toward $210MM next year bodes well for extension candidates. Barkley is set to make just $850K in base salary this season, and his fifth-year option came in at only $7.22MM.
Saquon Barkley‘s long path back toward his starring role in the Giants’ offense featured a key step Monday. The fourth-year running back is now off the Giants’ PUP list, returning to practice for the first time since his September 2020 knee injury.
The Giants have taken it slow with Barkley this year, and clarity from either side in this rehab process has been rare. But this marks an important designation. Barkley will not begin the season on the PUP list, which would have shelved him for six games.
Monday’s status change means the Pro Bowler will be eligible to suit up in Week 1, though it is uncertain if he will. Barkley again declined to confirm he will be in uniform when the Giants begin their regular season, staying on message.
Joe Judge said Barkley will be eased into practice action, indicating a return to 11-on-11 or even 7-on-7 work will not happen just yet. The second-year HC has said the team is taking a long-lens view at Barkley’s return from ACL and MCL tears. Barkley suffered the injury Sept. 18 but did not undergo surgery until Oct. 29. While many players have been full-go quicker in their respective returns from ACL tears, the Giants have stayed patient here.
Saquon Barkley refuses to reveal his availability for the start of next season, and the Pro Bowl running back continued that trend today. Speaking to reporters, Barkley said he’s unsure if he’ll be good to go for Week 1.
“I don’t know. We’ll see,” Barkley said (via ESPN’s Jordan Raanan). “Taking it day by day. Just listening to my body. Whenever I’m able to get out there, just make sure I’m 110 percent. Not just for … my well-being, but just so I go out there and compete at a high level and show the world who Saquon is.”
The former second-overall pick has continued to rehab from his ACL injury, and previous reports indicated that he’ll be limited at the start of training camp. Barkley told reporters that he’s yet to talk with head coach JoeJudge about their August game plan, but the team isn’t expected to make him a full participant until at least halfway through the month.
The Giants are set to open the regular season against the Broncos on September 12, which will be nearly a year since Barkley suffered his torn ACL. It makes sense for both sides to be cautious as they manage the injury, but it’s not unrealistic to expect the running back on the field come Week 1.
Meanwhile, the Giants could be looking to add some extra depth as they prepare for a potential Barkley absence. The team worked out running backs Tyler Ervin and Mike Weber earlier today, according to ESPN’s Field Yates (via Twitter). The team also auditioned defensive back Jordyn Peters.
Nearly 10 months removed from his ACL and MCL tears, Saquon Barkley may not have a smooth onramp back to his previous role. If Barkley exuding confidence about his return, he closely guarding evidence of it.
A previous report indicated the Pro Bowl running back may not be full-go by training camp and would likely be eased into regular-season work, and Barkley offered a cryptic progress assessment Thursday. After saying he is “trying to get 1% better every single day,” during an appearance on the Rich Eisen Podcast (video link), Barkley declined to say whether he expects to be ready for Week 1.
The fourth-year back also said he has not yet discussed whether he will begin training camp on the active/PUP list with the coaching staff. While Barkley was clearly trying to avoid giving much of anything away, it is not like the Giants have a near-future opponent from which to shield information. Questions about his readiness will naturally persist until he returns to full work.
Although Barkley is almost 10 months removed from the Sept. 18 injury, which also included meniscus damage, he did not undergo surgery until Oct. 29. The Giants are not expected to make Barkley a full practice participant until at least midway through training camp. Barkley attended Giants minicamp but did not participate in on-field work.
“We have to make sure that we let him get it at his pace and put him on the field, can play 100% aggressive and confident and he’s going to play safe and he can play effective,” Joe Judge said last month. “… Couldn’t be happier with how he is working, showing tremendous leadership this offseason. He’s champing at the bit to get back on the field.”
Barkley’s status will obviously be one of this year’s key training camp storylines. This will be the first training camp in which the Penn State product is eligible for an extension, though last year’s injury — after he suffered a high ankle sprain in 2019 — clouds that prospect. Barkley said in June he is not fixated on an extension taking place.
Saquon Barkley‘s rookie deal is set to expire following the 2022 season, but the Giants running back isn’t worried about a lack of an extension. When asked if he’d play the upcoming season without a new deal, the former second-overall pick made it clear that he’s only focused about what’s on the field.
“When it comes to the contract situation that’s not even something that’s crossing my mind,” Barkley said (via Pat Leonard of New York Daily News on Twitter). “I have an amazing agent. Those are things I have conversations with her about. But for me right now, the only thing I’m focusing on is coming here today, working my butt off, and trying to get as ready as I can so when I’m able to get back out there, I’m 110% and I can perform to the best of my abilities for my team.”
The 24-year-old is saying all the right things, and it’s obviously encouraging that he’s focused on his comeback vs. his next contract. However, there’s no denying that the financials aren’t at least being considered in Barkley’s camp. The running back has already dealt with his fair share of injures; a high ankle sprain forced him to miss three games in 2019, and a torn ACL limited him to only a pair of contests in 2020. Another injury would surely hurt Barkley’s earnings potential, so it makes sense to grab the money when he can.
Further, Barkley is underpaid at his position, especially for a player of his caliber. The running back has a base salary of only $850K in 2021, with the total-cash earnings (including signing bonus) valued at around $4.8MM. The Giants predictably picked up his fifth-year option, guaranteeing him $7.2MM in 2022, but even that chunk of cash would rank him ninth at his position (in average annual salary).
Barkley could easily make an argument for being paid like one of the top backs in the NFL. Following a dynamic rookie campaign that saw him finish with 2,028 yards from scrimmage and 15 touchdowns, Barkley followed that up with a sophomore campaign where he had 1,441 yards and eight scores (albeit in three fewer games). The former Pro Bowler will be looking to return to his previous form next year, and we recently heard he was rehabbing (but not participating) at OTAs.
Saquon Barkley‘s ACL tear occurred Sept. 20, 2020, but the Pro Bowl running back did not undergo surgery until late October. The Giants believe Barkley is progressing on schedule, but it will still be a bit before he returns to full work.
Barkley, who also suffered MCL and meniscus damage on that play in Chicago, is not expected to participate fully in Giants practices at the start of training camp, Jordan Raanan of ESPN.com notes. The Giants have been busy stocking their backfield this offseason, adding a host of Barkley backups through various acquisition varieties. That Devontae Booker-led contingent should be called on often come camp.
Despite Barkley having resumed sprinting and jumping, his team will play it safe. He may be given the green light for regular work near the end of camp, but Raanan adds the Giants plan to hold Barkley back a bit — usage-wise — to start the season. The Giants playing the long game with their dynamic back makes sense, with the 24-year-old talent also having suffered a notable injury — a high ankle sprain — in 2019 and with the first 17-game season approaching.
The Giants picked up Barkley’s fifth-year option and are eyeing a long-term future with the former No. 2 overall pick. That may mean Booker and whoever else makes the team behind Barkley seeing more time early this season. New York gave Booker a two-year, $6MM deal and then added Corey Clement in free agency and claimed Ryquell Armstead off waivers from the Jaguars. The Giants also drafted Gary Brightwellin the sixth round. This will be a new crew of Barkley backups, and they may be busier than expected in September.
NFL teams have until May 3 to officially pick up their options on 2018 first-rounders who are entering the final year of their rookie deals. In a change from years past, fifth-year option seasons are fully guaranteed, rather than guaranteed for injury only. Meanwhile, salaries are now determined by a blend of the player’s position, initial draft placement, and specific performance metrics:
2-time Pro Bowlers (excluding alternate Pro Bowlers) will earn the same as their position’s franchise tag.
1-time Pro Bowlers will earn the equivalent of the transition tag.
Players who achieve any of the following will get the average of the 3rd-20th highest salaries at their position:
75%+ snaps in two of their first three seasons
75%+ average across all three seasons
50%+ in each of first three seasons
Players who do not hit any of those benchmarks will get the average of the 3rd-25th top salaries at their position.
With the deadline looming, we’ll use the space below to track all the option decisions from around the league:
As we all expected, Saquon Barkley will be sticking around New York through at least the 2022 season. The Giants have picked up the star running back’s fifth-year option, reports ESPN’s Adam Schefter (via Twitter).
Barkley will earn a guaranteed base salary of $7.217MM during that 2022 campaign. As things currently stand, Barkley would have the ninth-highest cap hit at his position that season.
Considering the modest salary, it’s hardly a surprise that the Giants have made this move. Since he was selected with the second-overall pick in the 2018 draft, Barkley has establish himself as one of the top running backs in the NFL. He had a historic rookie campaign where he compiled 2,028 yards from scrimmage and 15 touchdowns in 16 games. He had an equally impressive 5.4 yards per touch in 2019, but he missed three games thanks to a high ankle sprain.
Most of us are familiar with Barkley’s 2020 campaign. The 24-year-old only saw time in two games before succumbing to a torn ACL. The injury ultimately ended his season, although Schefter reported earlier today that the running back is on track to be ready for the start of the 2021 season. Considering the short shelf life of running backs, it’s a good sign that Barkley is seemingly recovering well from the injury.
Following the recent trend of teams dumping first-round running backs following their rookie contracts, there have been some questions about whether Barkley would stick around New York long term. While Giants owner JohnMara previously stated that the organization wasn’t in any rush to extend the Pro Bowler, he also made it clear that he wants Barkley to stick around New York.
“We’re not in any hurry to do that,”Mara said at the time. “We fully expect him to be as good as new. … We hope he’s going to be a Giant for life. At the appropriate time, we’ll start those discussions.”
The Giants have eagerly dished out cash this offseason, but that doesn’t mean Saquon Barkley will benefit from the spending spree. Speaking to reporters, Giants owner JohnMara said an extension for the running back isn’t coming any time soon.
“We’re not in any hurry to do that,” Mara said (via SNY’s Ralph Vacchiano on Twitter). “We fully expect him to be as good as new. … We hope he’s going to be a Giant for life. At the appropriate time, we’ll start those discussions.”
The former second-overall pick quickly established himself as one of the top running backs in the league, averaging 1,734.5 yards from scrimmage and 11.5 touchdowns per season through his first two years in the NFL. However, after missing a handful of games in 2019, Barkley was limited to only two games in 2020 before suffering a season-ending ACL injury.
The 24-year-old is about to enter the final year of his four-year rookie contract, but he has an affordable fifth-year option that’s valued at only $7.2MM. Barkley is also eligible to sign an extension after having spent three years in the league. Despite the modest fifth-year salary, it isn’t guaranteed that the running back has his option picked up. Earlier this month, GM Dave Gettleman didn’t seem to commit one way or the other, hinting that health could be a concern.
The Giants may be dragging their feet with the fifth-year option (and the subsequent extension), but Mara still made it clear that he wants Barkley to spend the rest of his career in New York. This Giants are likely doing their due diligence before committing to any future deals with the star running back.