Once the New York Giants signed their future over to Daniel Jones, theri fans could anxiously pivot to running back Saquon Barkley. While the two haven’t quite reached the stage of acrimony, it’s not for a lack of effort from the media. Today’s overblown headline is “Barkley reportedly won’t sign franchise tag before start of offseason program.”
Kim Jones’ report was so newsworthy that it got co-opted by Adam Schefter, and it’s nice to see that aggregation is a top-to-bottom trend in sports media. Now allow me to tell you why it matters — or more accurately why you should move on with your day. Offseason workout plans are the most menial tasks of all the menial tasks that are optional for NFL players. It’s like a summer reading list. As soon as you say “optional” or “extra credit,” students stop caring.
Anytime I see “offseason” or “non-mandatory” in a headline, whatever sensationalization the publication was attempting is lost. I could give a fuck whether one of the best athletes I’ve ever seen — a guy who does leg workouts that give me a hernia watching them — is going to be in shape for a season that’s months away.
There’s only one reason why this Barkley news is relevant, and it’s because he still has yet to sign his franchise tag.
Despite the rigamarole, please, stay calm
To be clear, Giants fans have been at some kind of defcon level regarding Barkley ever since it was evident that Jones was going to get the absurd money he asked for. The front office didn’t pick up the quarterback’s fifth-year option for obvious reasons, he overperformed under Coach of the Year Brian Daboll, the Maras were smitten (smote?), and gave Danny Spare Change a lot of change.
That screwed up Barkley’s contract negotiations, but honestly probably saved Joe Schoen the headache of trying to re-sign the star back with ample cap space. It seems like Saquon is at least aware of his position’s market and knows he’s not getting an avalanche of money.
That said, Barkley has allegedly turned down an offer worth $12 million to $13 million per year, so he’s definitely not happy over the $10.1 million he stands to earn under the tag. If I was him, I would be understandably pissed because running backs don’t get generational wealth deals anymore, and being franchise tagged is the biggest load of bullshit in a league rife with it.
My guess is Barkley wants Alvin Kamara money, and the Giants are unwilling to pay that because of his injury history and the recent history of paying running backs. I agree with taking precautions to see how durable Barkley is. If he can avoid missing large swaths of games every time he steps on a cornerback’s foot like he did a couple of seasons ago, he’s worth an overpay — sort of.
When should New York fans get nervous about Barkley?
I would say freak out when/if he’s willing to sit games. Play chicken until he blinks. Shit, even if he misses the arbitrary July 15 deadline, it’s not a big deal. Barkley said he wants to be a Giant for life, so that leads me to believe he’ll be willing to put up with being franchise tagged once.
My concern depends on how good the offense is in year two of Daboll. Say it looks a lot like the 2022 version, then you have to retain Barkley as long as he’s healthy. There currently aren’t any game-breakers on the roster other than No. 26, and a lot of open space that Jones finds himself running through is a product of the attention given to Barkley.
If Saquon puts up Kamara-type production, which is entirely possible, mash the panic button like you’re playing a Mario Party mini-game. If not, and that’s what New York seems to be betting on, Schoen will have a shit ton of leverage and might be able to get the number lowered.
Time will tell how idiotic/smart the Giants are, yet as it stands, they’re playing the cards dealt to them as well as possible. Granted that’s after going all-in on Jones, but gotta play a hand sometime.