Predicting Saquon Barkley’s landing spot and free agent contract

The New York Giants will not place the franchise tag on Saquon Barkley. Where will he end up?

Saquon Barkley, New York Giants
Saquon Barkley, New York Giants / Cooper Neill/GettyImages

The New York Giants will officially allow Saquon Barkley to test the open market. Barkley received the franchise tag treatment last offseason, but the price was too high for a repeat in 2024. Now, Barkley joins a free agency class littered with high-end RBs. Josh Jacobs, Austin Ekeler, and Derrick Henry are among those in search of new contracts and potentially new homes.

While we cannot rule out Barkley returning to the Giants, per Ryan Dunleavy of the New York Post, the Giants want to keep the 27-year-old workhorse "at their price." Barkley dreams of playing his whole career in New York, but he will test the market for "a combination of guaranteed money, playoff chances and better blocking" that trumps his dream.

It is borderline impossible to know how exactly the RB market will evolve with so many quality names up for grabs. Last offseason, we saw contract values plummet at the position. Barkley was franchise-tagged, for example, rather than signing a big-money extension. Miles Sanders led the way for actual free agents, signing a four-year, $25 million deal with Carolina. That led all free agent RBs in annual value at just $6.25 million. That is not a lot, and the Panthers probably regret it. So, Barkley faces an uphill battle on the financial front.

Barkley is probably the "best" running back available. He's younger than Derrick Henry and he has displayed more consistency over the course of his career than Josh Jacobs. That said, Barkley has dealt with more than his share of injuries, and there is always concern about career-long workhorses maintaining elite per-touch production into their late 20s or early 30s. As crazy as it sounds to start questioning Barkley's longevity at 27, every front office in the NFL is doing just that.

That said, Barkley remains a true needle-mover. He was one of the Giants' best players last season, accumulating 247 carries for 962 yards and six touchdowns in 14 starts. He averaged a respectable 3.9 yards per tote while adding another 280 yards and four touchdowns through the air.

So, the question is, will the market dictate a return to New York, or will another team present the financial opportunity necessary to pry Barkley away from the only NFL team he has ever known?

It's prediction time.

Prediction: Saquon Barkley will sign with Houston Texans for two years, $20 million

Maybe it's foolish to predict such a lucrative contract for a running back in 2024. But, this is Saquon Barkley, the former No. 2 pick who has served as the lifeblood of New York's offense for half a decade. The Giants have been to some dark places as a franchise over the last few years. Barkley is the one relatively consistent source of light.

That could be enough to convince one team to hand Barkley the "bag," or at least a bag relative to his position mates. Few teams are better positioned than the Houston Texans, who are equipped with roughly $70 million in cap space, a star QB years away from his big payday, and several young WRs on similarly team-friendly rookie deals.

Plus, according to Dunleavy's report, Barkley and Stroud have "been in touch" about teaming up. There are also voices inside the Houston organization who believe in a "bell cow over a rotation," which would favor spending extra to land one of football's best three-down RBs.

The Giants should probably be the tentative favorites here — it's always easier to stay put than to leave — but the Texans are positioned for a major leap forward in 2024. Stroud flashed unbelievable star power as a rookie. He's a real weapon in the recruitment sphere. The Texans are the only contender with the necessary cap space and roster situation to actually justify multiple years of guaranteed money for Barkley.

Odds are Houston can negotiate some sort of out or partial guarantee for the second season without scaring Barkley off. At the very least, GM Nick Caserio can work in some incentives based on games played or yards gained to protect against injury.

The Texans finished last season 23rd in rushing yards per game. One has to imagine Barkley can move that number in the right direction.

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