The NFL period to apply the Franchise Tag to a player ended today. Two top candidates for the tag from the Giants were RB Saquon Barkley and S Xavier McKinney. As the deadline approached, GM Joe Schoen resisted placing the tag on either of his star players.

As it stands now, it’s possible both Saquon and Xavier will hit the open market when at high noon on Monday, March 11th the other 31 NFL teams can begin contacting player’s agents and strike deals for 2024.  But, the Giants can continue talks with both players (and all potential Giants’ free agents on the 2023 roster) throughout this week.  

Xavier McKinney and the Safety Market

The Giants have expressed they clearly want both players back.  They appear more interested in getting McKinney signed before next week.  Talks with McKinney’s agent, David Mulugheta, occurred at the combine in Indianapolis last Friday and will continue this week.  The Giants could have easily done so, but did not apply the tag on McKinney, perhaps as a measure of good faith and to keep negotiations going this week.  With any luck, the Giants can sign McKinney before Monday.  He projects as a key player in DC Shane Bowen’s defense this coming season.  If the Giants cannot come to an agreement with McKinney, there are several solid safeties coming available in free agency.  Here’s a few of them:

  • Xavier McKinney
  • Kamren Curl
  • Geno Stone
  • Eddie Jackson
  • Jeremy Chinn
  • Kevin Byard
  • Micah Hyde
  • Jordan Whitehead
  • Quandre Diggs

One school of thought in not tagging McKinney is the number of good safeties hitting the free agent market.  Supply versus demand could make this a “Buyers” market which could lead to offers coming in lower than the projected 2024 safety franchise tag of $17,123,000 (per  One player to watch is Kevin Byard.  Byard was traded to the Eagles from the Titans last year, but recently released.  He played three seasons under Bowen’s defense at Tennessee and excelled at safety.  

Saquon Barkley and the Running Back Market

Saquon Barkley has openly expressed his desire NOT to be franchise tagged again this year.  At the same time, he has also expressed his desire to remain a Giant and to hopefully play his full career as a Giant.  The Giants also spoke with his agents at the combine early last week.  The team honored his request and did not tag him.  The Giants seem more willing to let Saquon test the market and see what value other teams have for him.  There are rumors of heavy interest from the Houston Texans and Saquon has had discussions with Texans QB CJ Stroud.  Similar to the safety market, there is a heavy supply of running backs hitting free agency.  The top ones are:

  • Saquon Barkley
  • Tony Pollard
  • Josh Jacobs
  • Austin Ekeler
  • Derrick Henry
  • D’Andre Swift
  • Devin Singletary
  • J.K. Dobbins
  • Zack Moss
  • Gus Edwards

When you look at the top six names, they were all starters for their teams last season.  Again if the supply exceeds demand, prices will go down.  Perceived value for Running Backs is already in a decline across the NFL.  The 2024 franchise tag for running backs is $11,951,000.  This is about what Saquon made in 2023.  Saquon is looking for respect and a number above that.  The Giants offered more in 2022 and Saquon turned it down.  Unfortunately for him, the NFL has brought the RB value down which is the main reason why those top six backs are even on the market.

Why did the Giants not tag either player?  

The Giants have many holes to fill in this roster (OL, Edge, DL, maybe even QB).  Letting Barkley and McKinney, two of the team’s top players, both leave creates even more holes.  Part of the reason is salary cap space.  The team has just over $41M in remaining cap space per  If they tagged these two, that would effectively take up $29M of the remaining cap.  Signing players will let them spread the cap hit over multiple years.  It would be great to have both Barkley and McKinney back.  But it has to be on mutually friendly deals that leaves room to fill other needs. 

Sit back fans…it’s about to get wild.  It’s time to root for Joe Schoen and Brandon Brown to show their magic.

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