While the NFL Annual League Meeting continues in Arizona, Giants Co-Owner John Mara and GM Joe Schoen stepped away to meet with the media on Monday for a few minutes. The hot topic was Saquon Barkley. Specifically, will the Giants work a long-term deal with Saquon? Will Saquon participate in OTAs and the offseason program? Is signing Saquon a priority for the Giants? Or, maybe not…
What a difference a few months make!
During the Giants’ 2022 bye week back in November, the Giants offered Saquon a multi-year deal at $12.5M average annual value (AAV). The word got out that Saquon was seeking closer to $16M AAV and turned down the Giants. After the season ended, the Giants and Saquon’s agent revisited negotiations but could not reach a deal. Once the 11th-hour negotiations were done with Daniel Jones, the Giants then applied the tag to Saquon which puts his 2023 salary at $10.1M. Apparently, this wasn’t well received by Saquon. But it does give both sides more time to reach a contract agreement.
Now that the free agency frenzy has slowed down, the NFL owners and management staffs turn their attention to other league business and potential rules changes for 2023. But it’s also a time to take a quick breath, assess the current salary cap situation ahead of the April draft, and maybe revisit the Franchise Tag players in the hopes to resolve contract gaps and move forward with a long-term deal. Or is it? Joe Schoen stated he spoke to Saquon’s agent 3 days ago and that no current contract offer is on the table for Saquon. Owner John Mara made this comment: ” My dream is that Saquon plays his whole career as a Giant like Eli did, like Strahan did, like Tiki did. I mentioned to him, ‘Look what they’re doing off the field now.’ I think he would like that as well.” He then said, “The running back market is what it is right now. I’m still hopeful at some point we be able to come to an agreement.” Coach Brian Daboll stated today that he last spoke to Saquon about two weeks ago.
So things seem quiet, a bit cold, and indifferent right now. The Giants’ voluntary offseason program begins on April 17, 2023 with two weeks of meetings, strength and conditioning and continued rehabilitation for injured players. Will Saquon Barkley show? Will the Giants try to reach a contract agreement before this date? They don’t seem to be in any rush right now. And Saquon is also quiet.
The NFL Running Back market has imploded this offseason. Three star RBs were tagged this season: Raiders’ Josh Jacobs, Cowboys’ Tony Pollard and Giants’ Saquon Barkley. The Cowboys also released RB Ezekiel Elliot. No other running back has signed for an AAV of greater than $6M this year. This makes the tag price of $10.1M seem better than having a contract. The tag is approximately $12M for 2024.
Team Chemistry Has a Value Too
My gut tells me the Giants front office runs a risk of alienating the players and messing up team chemistry if they cannot or will not work a new contract with Saquon before April 17th. But Saquon has to reset his expectations as well. I’d be surprised if the Giants don’t return to their offer of $12.5M AAV for Saquon. He’s more than just a runner. He tied for the lead in receptions in 2022 as well. That gives him the value to make $12.5M plausible for the team. It needs to be plausible for Saquon too.