Prepare for the Giants to give Saquon Barkley a ridiculous contract


The Giants’ front office was widely criticized for drafting Saquon Barkley No. 2 overall in 2018. Expect the same thing to happen with his next contract. 

The recent trend of NFL running backs receiving big-money contracts is set to pay off in a big way for Saquon Barkley. He could easily be the next guy to benefit from the recent trend around the league.

Even if Barkley isn’t the next running back to get a big deal, he’s in line for a serious pay increase from the Giants. GM Dave Gettleman set off a firestorm of criticism when he drafted Barkley with the No. 2 overall pick back in 2018. The argument against taking the former Penn State star with such a high choice is alarmingly simple. Good running backs are relatively easy for teams to find and elite running backs don’t stay that way for the duration of their second contracts.

Gettleman and his front office already bucked the league’s conventional wisdom on running backs. They’d be hard-pressed to justify that choice based on what Barkley’s done to date. He’s shown flashes of brilliance for the New York offense, but his presence on the roster hasn’t translated strongly to wins for the franchise.

Saqoun Barkley’s contract won’t be based on wins and losses

In fairness to Barkley, the offense isn’t set up for him to succeed. He’s never had the privilege of running behind a good offensive line and the current group is in shambles. There’s a reason why he only managed to grind out six yards on 15 carries in the team’s Week 1 loss to the Steelers. Watch tape of the game and it’s alarming to see how often Barkley gets hit in his own backfield.

The team’s lack of a polished passing game has also made life difficult for Barkley during his brief career. No matter what you think about Daniel Jones’ prospects of becoming a high-quality starter in the long run, it’s clear he hasn’t played to that level yet. Combine that with the team’s lack of quality at the skill positions and it’s easy to see why opposing defenses have keyed on Barkley almost every week of his professional career.

His production, given those impediments, has been impressive. He impressed as a rookie by rushing for over 1,300 yards over 16 games. His ability to catch the ball out of the backfield is also a key component of the Giants offense. He caught 91 passes for 721 yards and four touchdowns back in 2018.

Unfortunately for Barkley, his production last season wasn’t as good. Injuries limited him to just 13 games and his production declined accordingly. He still managed to rush for 1,003 yards on 217 carries. Again, he chipped in 52 catches for 438 yards in 2019 which bolsters his overall value to the franchise.

Add all of those numbers up and it’s clear that Barkley has a chance to develop into an elite NFL running back. He’s not there yet though. That’s where the danger lies for the Giants’ front office.

Saquon Barkley controls the board in contract negotiations

Barkley and his representatives know they have all the leverage in these negotiations. Gettleman already showed his hand when he spent such a premium draft pick on Barkley. He’s not the sort of GM who is going to show enough understanding of the term “sunk cost” to let the running back leave. That means Barkley is going to get a long-term deal from the franchise. He’s not going to leave via free agency or start playing the franchise tag game with the Giants on an annual basis.

There’s a cogent argument to be made that New York isn’t in a position to think about paying a running back big money. They need to spend significant resources on revamping the offensive line and giving Jones enough wide receiver talent to flourish. Tying up a ton of cap space on a deal for Barkley is going to make that a much more difficult task.

The more realistic argument to be made is that Barkley shouldn’t be inked to a contract that rivals the likes of Christian McCaffrey, Alvin Kamara, and Ezekiel Elliott at the top of his position group. For reference, McCaffrey’s recent deal with the Panthers pays him a shade over $16 million per season via his four-year deal. Elliott and Kamara both check in just behind that at $15 million per season with their respective deals.

There’s a chance the Giants can hold that line. Recent deals handed out to Dalvin Cook and Derrick Henry should be instructive. Both guys are making $12.5 million per season. That’s the absolute top of what the Giants should be willing to give Barkley. Tying him down to a long-term contract at a higher cap figure than either Cook or Henry would represent a loss for New York in terms of their negotiations.

Don’t expect Gettleman and his front office to operate with that level of fiscal integrity. They are in a prime position to be taken advantage of by Barkley in these negotiations. The rash of recent running back contracts will help build a strong narrative that NFL teams are starting to value the position again. That line of thinking plays right into what Gettleman wants to believe. Remember, he truly believed he was ahead of the curve when he drafted Barkley at No. 2.

There’s a real danger in believing you are the smartest guy in the room. Gettleman suffers from that affliction far too often. It’s a flaw that dogged him during his time with the Panthers and it’s followed him to New York.

As such, it shouldn’t surprise anyone if Barkley ends up becoming the highest-paid running back in football if he puts up good numbers this season. Gettleman will see giving him a big deal as a chance to validate his significant draft investment.

Next. Cam Newton's play will define the Patriots' future personnel moves. dark

All Giants fans can do at this point is sit back and wait for the bad news to roll in. Barkley will be staying in New York for the long haul, but the salary he will receive is going to hamstring the franchise for years to come. Barkley’s big deal will become the next GMs problem. It will be an ugly parting gift from Gettleman when he finally makes his exit.