Saquon Barkley chose the hard option with the franchise tag the New York Giants offered to him this offseason. That puts both sides in a tough spot.
The New York Giants had two key players entering free agency this offseason: quarterback Daniel Jones and running back Saquon Barkley. Both had solid 2022s and, ideally, New York would bring both back for 2023 and beyond.
The problem is, both want and could command relatively strong paychecks, and the Giants could really only afford to pay one. The second player would get the franchise tag.
The route the Giants took was the most sensible. They secured the most important position by signing Jones to a long-term deal. Yes, it’s for a crazy-high number, but the act of securing a quarterback to a big-money, long-term deal is a safer investment than with a running back.
That meant Barkley would get the tag. But to date, Barkley still hasn’t signed it. And he doesn’t plan on signing it, either.
Why refusing to sign franchise tag puts Giants in tough spot
The Giants don’t really have to do anything else now that they’ve extended Barkley the franchise tag. They can wait out the clock and hope that he realizes his best option is to sign the tag.
That said, optically, it may not be desirable to have a star player on the outs with the team. Other star players may not appreciate how Barkley is treated if the Giants don’t look to make amends in some way, hurting their chances at retaining or acquiring talent in the future.
So, the reaction might be for New York to try to agree to a fair multi-year deal instead of the originally offered franchise tag. The problem is, they may not want to.
New York is not going to want to commit major money to Barkley in a running back market that has players taking pay cuts, not pay raises, and accepting that that’s completely fair. RBs hold up poorly and Barkley has five years under his belt and is coming up on the 1,000 carries mark.
The one way this could work is if Barkley is willing to take the path of Aaron Jones and admit that the current market for the position is lower than he’d like, taking a fair market rate.
Beyond that, you’re looking at options that include a trade. We could be barrelling right toward that option.
Why refusing to play puts Saquon Barkley in tough spot
Barkley is essentially calling a play for himself and hoping that New York will come back to the negotiation table after giving him the franchise tag. Because if the Giants call his bluff, he won’t get paid and won’t be able to play in 2023.
Maybe that’s fine by him, but again, the position is unkind to age. Sitting out in his age-26 season would be a bad career move and would probably bring him back into the market next season at an even lower rate than he could get now.
Barkley is using every last bit of leverage he has to try to get a deal done or end up on a new team. He wants some security, which is reasonable given the position he plays, but it’s a tough game he’s trying to play at the negotiation table.