Saquon Barkley hosted his annual football camp this past weekend. And for the first time, since the Giants placed the franchise tag on him, he spoke to the media.
He was direct and expressed confidence in his negotiating team but didn’t mince words on the state of the negotiations. Saquon let the media know he was not happy.
Of course, there are a few reasons.
But what is irritating him the most?
Giants fans are very well aware there’s a business side to football. The cold, cruel impersonal approach to contracts takes over in the offseason and is followed by the optimism of a new season as camps open. But right now, there are still players on the outside looking in, waiting to get their next contract or hoping they don’t have to sign what was put before them. Be it a cut in pay, an unwanted franchise tag, or even a “Hey, we’ll give you a call later.” We all know this unfortunate chain began during the 2022 bye week. The Giants were said to have offered an average annual value (AAV) of $12.5M per year for 3-4 years. Saquon and his agent team turned that down.
In response, Saquon was believed to be asking for closer to $16M AAV…not quite the top of the running back market, but just under the value of Christian McCaffrey’s contract signed in 2020. Honestly, that’s a reasonable comparison when you look only at the player comparison. Both are lethal weapons as runners and pass catchers. But so much more has happened since November 2022.
That McCaffrey contract was a contract in 2020. Back in 2020, running backs carried a franchise tag of $10.28M. Guess what. The tag hasn’t changed much. In fact, the tag for running backs has dropped to just under $10.1M. The current narrative in the NFL regarding running backs can be summarized as they take a pounding and aren’t much use after they reach the age of 30. Saquon is 26 now. So, maybe a 3-4 year contract makes sense. But he’s only been able to stay healthy for just 2 of his 5 seasons (his 2018 rookie year and 2022 last year). Saquon produced on offense last season, rushing for over 1300 yards on just under 300 carries, and he also was a significant weapon as a pass catcher with 57 receptions.
When the 2023 offseason began, the Giants’ front office focused on signing QB Daniel Jones first. That took them up to five minutes before the deadline on March 7th to sign Jones, leaving just enough time to drop the $10.1M tag on Barkley as the clock struck 12 and free agency began. That front office move irked Saquon a bit. But the Giants then dropped another bombshell on the Barkley camp. They pulled their standing offer of $12.5M AAV off the table, basically bringing negotiations to a new starting point. It certainly didn’t help Saquon that the running back contracts and AAV signed this offseason were less than the franchise tag.
Does Saquon’s frustration have to do with the fact that the team used the franchise tag on him? Maybe somewhat. Does his current frustration have anything to do with the Giants pulling their last offer from the negotiation table?
I’m sure it does, but not just that, either. On Sunday, Saquon referred to his loyalty to the Giants organization, the team, and his action as a captain and well-known Giant within the community. And in his eyes, he’s seeing that loyalty as just one way right now. He’s seeing that cold, cruel business side of things, maybe for the first time.
He’s not happy with the statements being attributed to his negotiating team and the Giants regarding numbers, negotiations, and neutral answers to media questions from the front office and coaching staff. I think he’s legitimately questioning if the Giants want him back after 2023. After all, they even drafted a running back that is forecast to be a solid starter in the NFL.
Both sides are posturing now. Saquon refuses to sign the tag and is sitting out OTAs and minicamp. The Giants are not rushing negotiations and have him for at least the 2023 season.
The deadline to sign the tag is July 17th. Saquon stated he’s in no rush.