HomeFootball DirtSaquon Barkley Unlikely to be Tagged by Giants

Saquon Barkley Unlikely to be Tagged by Giants

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This year’s window for teams to use the franchise tag to keep players out of free agency opened Monday, though action on this front generally takes place toward the window’s close. The Giants’ actions in 2023 showed that, but the tag deadline in New York might be quieter this year.

The Giants tagged Saquon Barkley minutes before the March 2023 deadline, reaching a long-term agreement with Daniel Jones to keep the option open of cuffing their Pro Bowl running back. Barkley was productive again in 2023, despite an early-season injury, but the New York Post’s Paul Schwartz indicates the team is “highly, highly unlikely” to give the six-year Giant a second tag. The Giants still plan to make Barkley a worthwhile offer, Schwartz adds, but they are not planning to make a tag part of the process this time around.

[RELATED: Giants To Meet With Barkley’s Camp At Combine]

Even though the Giants tagging Barkley in 2023 inflates his 2024 tender price, it still would cost them only $12MM to keep Barkley off the market. Only the kicker/punter tag checks in south of the running back number, which is projected to come in around $11.3MM for first-time RB tag recipients. The Raiders and Giants have been connected to potential second tags, and even while Josh Jacobs‘ tag number is higher due to the terms the Raiders agreed to just before last season, it appears Barkley will be given the chance to test the market.

The Giants did Barkley a disservice by tagging him last year. The former Offensive Rookie of the Year had bounced back after three injury-plagued seasons, powering an undermanned Giants offense to the playoffs. While Barkley is certainly in fine financial shape due to playing out a fully guaranteed rookie deal and following up a fifth-year option season by playing on a $10.1MM tag, his best chance to capitalize on the open market has likely passed. That does not mean Barkley would not generate a strong market this year, but the nature of the RB position puts the New Jersey native on the downside of his career.

This aspect will play into the Giants’ thinking, Schwartz adds, noting the Giants have conducted studies that have shown age 27 represents a running back cliff. Barkley, who turned 27 earlier this month, averaged just 3.9 yards per carry in 2023 and suffered another notable injury — a high ankle sprain — early on. The talented RB was forced to carry another poor offense — a trend throughout the Penn State alum’s New York tenure — and still finished the season strong. Barkley totaled 1,242 scrimmage yards in 14 games, doing so on an offense missing key O-linemen and aerial weaponry — and one without Jones for much of the season.

Both sides were interested in an extension as of November, but time is running out. Barkley has said on several occasions he wants to finish his career with the Giants, who still have exclusive negotiating rights with the Dave Gettleman-era draftee until the legal tampering period opens March 11. GM Joe Schoen spoke with Barkley shortly after the season, but Schwartz adds little came of that. Schoen has shown no hesitancy in re-upping Gettleman acquisitions, extending Dexter Lawrence and Andrew Thomas following the Jones $40MM-AAV payday. Barkley’s position, naturally, is hurting his cause.

Barkley would probably be the top RB available this year, surpassing the likes of Jacobs, Austin Ekeler, Tony Pollard and D’Andre Swift. But he does have 1,201 carries on his odometer — which actually trails Jacobs’ count by more than 100, despite the latter being a year younger — and some injury baggage in his past. Barkley is three-plus years removed from the ACL tear that ended his 2020 season early, but ankle trouble has been a factor in the years since.

Barkley has pocketed more than $48MM in the NFL, and he will be in position to cash in again soon. It will be interesting to see if the Giants, who passed on trading him at the deadline to keep the door open for a potential post-2023 future, make a lucrative offer to retain him or move on to a cheaper back.

If the Giants lose Barkley, they will need to either draft a replacement or sign one. After the events of last year, it will also be interesting to see if Barkley can come close to the roughly $22MM guarantee total the Giants offered — while decreasing the proposal’s AAV at the last minute — just before last July’s tag extension deadline. This situation produced countless headlines last year, but it appears we will have a resolution much sooner this offseason. Should the Giants pay Barkley as a free agent or finally let him walk?

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