Saquon Barkley was on the football field on Sunday. Unfortunately for Giants fans, it was just for his Saquon Barkley Hope Foundation football game.
While speaking to reporters, Barkley expressed frustration with the Giants’ front office and the NFL’s treatment of running backs in general and suggested that he may be inclined to sit out the upcoming season.
There was a lot of support from fellow Giants for Barkley at Sunday’s camp with Darren Waller, Tyrod Taylor, Isaiah Hodgins, Amani Oruwariye, Darnay Holmes, Micah McFadden, and Dane Belton all in attendance, along with defensive coordinator Wink Martindale.
However, the positive vibes didn’t carry over to the front office.
“Nobody wants to get tagged, Barkley said,” but the thing I’m most frustrated about is, like how I said ‘family business is family business,’ and then sources come out and stories get leaked, and it didn’t come from me … I feel like it’s trying to paint a narrative of me or paint a picture of me that’s not even the truth. It’s not even close to being true.”
The leaks Barkley is talking about are likely centered around the reports that he was offered a contract of around $12 million per season during the bye week this past year and turned it down. Ralph Vacchiano of the New York Daily News also reported at the time that he heard Barkley was looking for a deal near Christian McCaffrey’s $16 million.
While the Giants front office has never outwardly discussed the details of the contract that was offered to Barkley, general manager Joe Schoen has stated that the framework of the deal has changed since that mid-season discussion.
If the $12 million per year number is to be believed then that contract would have made Barkley the 6th highest-paid running back in football behind McCaffrey, Alvin Kamara, Dalvin Cook, Derrick Henry, and Nick Chubb.
That feels like the correct company for Barkley. In fact, Cook was just released by the Vikings mostly over salary cap reasons.
Of all the running backs who signed new deals in free agency this year, Miles Sanders is set to make the most money per year at just $6.25 million per season. David Montgomery is the only other running back who will make $6 million per year, which helps to further solidify that the running back market in the NFL has changed.
However, that’s also part of Barkley’s larger criticism of his situation.
“What I will say about the running back market and the value of it…What do you think is gonna happen? They tagged the top three guys,” Barkley said referring to himself, Josh Jacobs, and Tony Pollard. “When we don’t get a chance to hit the open market, it hurts a guy like Miles [Sanders], it hurts all those other guys. They put the cap at $10 [million], and then when they have the tag, they have all the leverage. That’s just the reality of it.”
Physically, Barkley claimed that he feels like he’s entering his prime and is ready to be the best version of himself going forward.
However, years of research have shown that running backs often fail to live up to their value on their second contract.
Over the Cap did a detailed study of the outcome of running back contracts and found that “the production in the years prior to a contract signing are probably unsustainable due to breaking down.”
The study looked at 68 running backs who signed multi-year contracts that were at least three years in length between 2011 and 2020. It confirmed that “overall the teams had an unfavorable outcome about 83% of the time with the team overestimating the length of the contract.”
Furthermore, the study found that “The most likely outcome is that the player will remain with the team for two seasons with a majority being released, traded, or having terms modified after the 2nd season after signing. It’s only a minority that make it to the back end of the contract.”
So even though Saquon Barkley may feel like he’s entering his prime, it’s also understandable why the Giants may be hesitant to pay a big sum of money to a 26-year-old running back who has suffered two major injuries.
For now, we know that Barkley will not be in attendance at the Giants’ mandatory minicamp this week, and he hasn’t closed the door on opting to sit out this season altogether.
“Hopefully something gets done before [the July 17th deadline]. If not, when it happens, I’ll sit down and see what’s the next move,” he said. “I think [sitting out] is a conversation, like you said, that’s a card I could play… That comes up in conversation if something doesn’t get done by July 17. And we got a little bit of time in between there. So when that date comes up, then I’ll have to sit down with my team and my family and make decisions, see what we’re gonna do, what’s the game plan, what’s the next move.”
Until then, the Giants and their fans just have to hope for the best.