What to do with Saquon Barkley?
This is one of the main questions of the 2022 offseason. To me, it really isn’t a difficult situation to figure out. The Giants should absolutely look to trade their “star” running back. I put star in quotations because if we’re being honest with ourselves, Saquon Barkley hasn’t been a star player since 2019. Now, just because the Giants should look to trade Barkley, doesn’t mean they should give him away for a bag of donuts, a hot pretzel, and a hot dog. Hmmm, where have I heard that before?
When the Giants decided to select a running back with the 2nd overall pick in the 2018 draft, everyone knew it was a risk. The running back position is one that doesn’t require significant resources to find production at and they have one of the shortest shelf lives in the NFL. Despite all of this being known, the hope was that Saquon Barkley was an outlier and that he was touched by the hand of God (damnit, why do these sayings sound so familiar?). Saquon’s rookie year made him look like he really was god sent! The man had 2,028 total yards and 15 touchdowns. Since then, it has been a steady decline for the Penn State product. His sophomore year he suffered an ankle sprain that kept his production down, although he managed to get healthy toward the end of the year and still put up 1,441 total yards and 8 touchdowns. The hope was that a healthy Saquon would enter 2020 and return to his rookie form. Thennnnnnn disaster struck and Saquon tore his ACL in week 2. This past season, Saquon Barkley looked like a shell of the man we once saw light the NFL on fire. Through his first 4 years in the league, Barkley has managed to prove the stereotypes true regarding running backs. That’s not to say he can’t turn his career around, but with the trajectory his career has taken, how could the Giants not look to trade their former number 2 pick?
The other reason the Giants should be looking to trade Barkley is money. The Giants cap situation is not good, and they are going to have to clear some cap space. Despite all the bad I have talked about with Barkley, there is a chance he can return to a very productive running back in his second year back from a torn ACL, so cutting him outright is not an option. This is especially true when you couple it with the fact that cutting Barkley would save them no money at all, as his entire $7,217,000 cap number for this year would become dead money. But if Barkley is traded, all of that $7,217,000 becomes cap savings for the Giants. That’s a significant amount of money the Giants could put to use, and replacing a running back is much easier than replacing other positions on the roster. There is also one more reason the Giants should be looking to trade Barkley:
They cannot give him a big money extension.
Those who don’t want to get rid of Barkley may say: “What if he goes off like he did his rookie year?” My rebuttal to that would be: “What about the 3 years after his rookie year?” My other rebuttal would be to look at the recent trends in extending running backs. Guys like David Johnson and Todd Gurley were traded and cut early in their extensions. Christian McCaffrey signed a huge extension prior to the 2020 season and has played a total of 10 games since. Have some guys remained productive? Yes. Ezekiel Elliot has remained productive since he signed his contract extension prior to the 2019 season. But now rumblings are beginning in Dallas saying that Tony Pollard looks better than Zeke, and Zeke’s contract still has 5 years left on it. The point is, do you really want to risk paying Saquon with the injuries he has had and the recent trends in running back extensions? I’ll answer for you: No. So why delay the inevitable? Look to trade him now when you can get something for him and free up some money that can help the Giants both now and in the future.
I almost feel guilty writing this blog. I like Saquon, I wear his jersey every Sunday, I admittedly liked the pick at the time, and he represents the Giants well. When he said he wants those who doubt him now to, “stay on that side of the table when things turn around”, it pulled at my heart strings. At the end of the day though, it almost makes no sense to not look to trade him. BUT, don’t just give him away for nothing. I’m not trading Saquon for a 5-7th round pick. Even a 4th rounder is tough, but I would certainly think about it. Even if the Giants don’t trade Barkley now, let him play this year, and test the waters at the trade deadline. You can either get more for him, get what you can currently get for him, or worst comes to worst, you cut ties with Barkley at the end of the 2022 season.
Saying goodbye to Saquon Barkley may be hard from an emotional standpoint, but from a football standpoint, looking to trade him makes all the sense in the world.
(Photo: Noah K. Murray)