Saquon Barkley has been forced to think about life potentially playing for an NFL team not named the New York Giants after the inability to come to terms on a long-term deal with general manager Joe Schoen.
The 26-year-old was franchise tagged last season after turning down a $14 milion-plus annual offer from Big Blue, instead playing under a revised tag that paid him $11 million.
That franchise tag is still very much an option for Schoen to pursue, though doing so would likely end all hopes of securing Barkley for the long-term.
“I don’t think any player wants to get franchise-tagged,” Barkley said earlier this month. “Sometimes the franchise tag is a placeholder to be able to work on a deal later. In my case, it wasn’t last year. So if I got tagged again, I think I could give you a better answer or talk about my emotions at that time if it does happen.”
Barkley is projected to get another shorter-term deal that could range between $6.6 million and $11 million annually but with no resolution in sight, the two-time Pro Bowler realizes that 2024 could see him playing for a different team, as he discussed with Complex’s Zion Olojede.
“It never crossed my mind until last year after I got tagged. Up until that moment, I really believe that I was gonna finish my career as a New York Giant,” Barkley said. “You know, that was a goal of mine. And that’s still in play. I have so much respect for the Mara family and the Tisch family and everyone in the Giants organization.
They know that but once you get to this point, you go to your contract negotiation and you go through the tag process, you realize how much of a business it is. And I remember vets always telling me this and you know I believed them, but you don’t really know something until you go through it. So could I see myself in another uniform? Yeah, it’s possible.”
Should Barkley hit the open market, there likely won’t be a shortage of suitors that would be looking to bring on the dynamic back. Despite injury issues in recent years, he’s still one of the most explosive rushers in the NFL — something that was also hampered by a poorly-built offensive line.
What teams could take a run at Saquon Barkley?
The Chicago Bears have been devoid of game-breaking offensive talent for decades, but would have an opportunity to completely revamp their offense this offseason in just two moves. If the franchise is committed to moving on from Justin Fields, they have an opportunity to draft USC’s Caleb Williams to take over under center as the next perceived franchise quarterback of the future.
Bringing on a dual-threat back who can also block in the backfield would provide the ultimate security banket for Williams and an opportunity for Barkley to shine.
Over in the AFC West, the Broncos are licking their wounds from the failed Russell Wilson experiment where they also didn’t get much from their backfield, either. Javonte Williams posted 774 yards with only three touchdowns. Only three teams in the NFL scored fewer than Denver’s eight rushing touchdowns all season.
Six of Barkley’s 10 touchdowns in 2023 came on the ground.
The Houston Texans have their franchise quarterback in CJ Stroud and while Devin Singletary and Dameon Pierce put together respectable seasons, Barkley would provide a completely different dimension to that offense, specifically through his pass-catching abilities.
With an abundance of cap space, they can afford to pay on the higher side of the market to get him if they find him a necessity. A core of Stroud, Barkley, and wide receiver Nico Collins is quite the foundation.
The Miami Dolphins also make an abundance of sense as a potential Barkley suitor. Both Raheem Mostert and Jeff Wilson are free agents and Barkley would be another remarkable talent to add to an offense that already has a wealth of big-time playmakers ranging from quarterback Tua Tagovailoa to wide receivers Jaylen Waddle and Tyreek Hill.