The New York Giants placed the franchise tag on running back Saquon Barkley, their first round pick in the 2019 NFL Draft. The parties hoped to agree on an extension before he would need to sign his franchise tag, but that hasn’t come to fruition. Barkley has made it clear he isn’t going to sign his franchise tag. Until he signs it, he would not be eligible to participate in offseason team activities and sets the precedent that he may not play on the tag.
Barkley, who had a bounce-back season in 2022 under new head coach Brian Daboll, would make $10.1 million under the franchise tag. That isn’t very much money in context, as the only other position that makes less are special teamers. Tight ends are next on the list are $11.3 million.
Is the money discrepancy fair? No, it really isn’t. Running backs take on a huge role in the offense and have shorter careers due to the amount of punishment they take. Unfortunately, offenses have become more pass-oriented and star running backs that put up huge numbers on 20+ touches a game aren’t needed like they once were. And if they are, teams would much rather get those numbers out of them on rookie contracts before their bodies start breaking down. The salary cap also makes roster building tight, especially when you are allocating money to various positions where running backs get the short shrift.
Barkley, who has now played in the league for five seasons and is 26-years-old, missed most of 2020 due to injury and has dealt with injuries that have slowed him down throughout his career. Now, coming off 1,650 total yards and 10 touchdowns, the team would like to keep him around, but giving a running back a big extension has not worked out that often.
Will Barkley read the writing on the wall and take a lower amount of money and years to get an extension? We’ve seen Austin Ekeler resign himself to wait until free agency to hopefully get a strong new contract because he’s just not finding suitors that want to pay for his services in a trade.
This season has also seen free agent running backs not get much in their contracts. Miles Sanders got a 4-year contract worth $6.25 million on average, but only a total of $13 million guaranteed. That was the highest number this offseason. Barkley is better than Sanders and will probably be given more by the Giants, but how much more? Probably not all that much.
Barkley has to take into consideration the chance he gets injured this season and then have few suitors in free agency next year. The $10 million he would get from the tag is a good number, but a contract 3-4 year contract would guarantee him more, while giving him some injury protections.
In the end, I expect Barkley will play starting Week 1, but he could keep a hold out going into training camp to hopefully up whatever contract offer the Giants are proposing, if any. In the end, he will likely play on the tag if it comes to that. As a running back, you really can’t give up $10 million and a year of football and expect it to work out in the end, just ask Le’Veon Bell.