On the surface, Saquon Barkley’s new contract with the New York Giants feels a lot like the franchise tag. It’s a one-year deal worth roughly the amount of same money — $10.1 million fully guaranteed vs. $10.091 million via the franchise tag — but with about a million in incentives. The main distinction worth noting is simply it’s not the franchise tag.
That’s all that matters, and even though Barkley and the Giants will likely be back at step one next offseason, the relationship hasn’t totally dissolved. Add in the $2 million signing bonus/apology bracelet, and it’s like a married couple giving it one more shot; there’s still a level of (purchased) amicability despite the violation of trust.
Barkley is already in the building, according to ESPN, because he loves the game (my words), but also I’m sure more than a few angry Giants fans have slid into his social media to vent about loyalty, dedication, and other off-base viewpoints. What this means in regards to a potential long-ish-term deal next summer has to do with what happens on the field.
The incentives in Barkley’s contract are all equally weighted, and all appear to be attainable benchmarks if last year’s success carries over to this season. In order to earn the full $11 million, Barkley has to rush for 1,350 yards while making the playoffs, score 11 touchdowns, and catch 65 passes.
During his 2022 campaign which included a trip to the playoffs, Barkley tallied 1,312 yards rushing, 10 touchdowns (all rushing), and 57 grabs. The rushing total was a career high, yet he’s cleared the other two hurdles before, and could very well do it again.
The issue is New York added pass catchers in free agency and the draft, snagging aging, misfit toys in receiver Jamison Crowder and tight end Darren Waller during the offseason, and adding Tennessee’s super speedster Jalin Hyatt in the draft. Those aren’t certified assets at this point in their careers, but the targets will be at a premium considering the Giants also signed Cole Beasley’s infected corpse.
All of this optimism overlooks New York’s candidacy for regression, and the possibility for those simmering tensions to resurface if Daniel Jones doesn’t live up to his ridiculous contract, or the NFC figures out Brian Daboll’s system. Additionally, there’s always the chance of Barkley feeling railroaded by not enough carries, or targets, or the inverse with play calling putting too much of a burden on him, creating the feeling that he’s being exploited only to be tossed away like a disposable weed pen in an airport trashcan.
For this season, and under that deal, there’s little motivation for Barkley to really push himself, or gut out injuries. An extra $909,000 is nothing when you’re looking to capitalize on the one opportunity in a contemporary running back’s career to land generational wealth.
This would be the funniest outcome; one that would divide the fan base in two, likely give General Manager Joe Scheon a brain hemorrhage, and initiate PTSD for those who fall in the Yankees-Giants Venn diagram. We’re two full seasons removed from Barkley’s ACL tear, and say his burst has fully returned; why can’t he surpass 2,000 yards from scrimmage, and 15 touchdowns?
Fifteen touchdowns were as many as the Giants had through the air in all of 2021, but that was before East Rutherford’s lord and savior started performing miracles in MetLife every Sunday and turned Danny Dimes into Kirk Cousins 2.0.
So, I’m prepared for all outcomes — or than the Giants and Barkley agreeing on a mutually beneficial contract next summer.