The New York Giants’ season ended in humiliating fashion, but one of the team’s two top free agents has already made a statement about his future. A 38-7 defeat to the Philadelphia Eagles in the Divisional Round of the Playoffs on Saturday, January 21 hasn’t got Saquon Barkley considering his options.
Instead, the Pro-Bowl running back told reporters, including ESPN’s Jordan Raanan, “Everyone knows I want to be a Giant for life.”
Barkley went into more detail when speaking to NFL Network’s Mike Garafolo, even offering a timeline for starting contract talks: “Sometime this week, I’ll have a conversation with my agent Kim and see what’s up.”
Barkley’s declaration is a timely boost after a sobering defeat that brought he and his teammates crashing back to earth after a Cinderella season. The Giants confounded the experts by finishing the regular season at 9-6-1, then shocked observers by beating the Minnesota Vikings 31-24 in the Wild Card Playoffs, before falling to the No. 1 seed in the NFC.
A 10-win campaign is ample reward for the way general manager Joe Schoen skilfully retooled a losing roster. Now the real work begins, with Schoen needing to resolve Barkley’s future, while also deciding what to do about quarterback Daniel Jones.
Saquon Barkley Had Made Himself Indispensable
Schoen needs to bring Barkley back after No. 26 did more than any other player to power the Giants’ return to prominence within the NFL. Not only did the player drafted second overall in 2018 stay healthy, but Barkley also set career-highs with 295 carries and 1,312 yards.
While he couldn’t get on track against the Eagles, Barkley did break loose for this 39-yard scamper during this third quarter:
The gain was one of the rare highlights for the Giants at Lincoln Financial Field. It’s understandable Barkley doesn’t want a third-straight to the Eagles to bring the curtain down on his career as a Giant, per Charlotte Carroll of The Athletic:
Making sure Barkley stays put won’t be easy. Not when Jones has played his way from draft flop on the brink to a credible and winning starting quarterback at the pro level.
Joe Schoen Faces a Juggling Act
Making room for the two most important players on the Giants’ offense to keep wearing the uniform for the long haul will require a juggling act from Schoen. His options are complex, but can be boiled down to using the franchise tag for one and crafting a long-term deal for the other.
Choosing who gets which is the tricky part. Barkley’s the most talented player on the roster, but Jones has proved competent at football’s most important position, where wrong decisions can condemn a franchise to decades worth of losing.
Making Jones the priority seems like the obvious ploy, but the Giants can’t overpay for a signal-caller who made great strides this season but still has his limitations. Those deficiencies include a lack of big plays through the air, with Jones leading a pass offense that produced a league-low 28 completions of 20-plus yards.
Jones also struggled in Philadelphia, throwing for a mere 135 yards, taking five sacks, tossing an interception and posting a 53.8 percent QB rating. The Giants have to weigh these issues against the improvements Jones made elsewhere within his game, strides collated by former NFL quarterback Robert Griffin III:
Schoen could opt to keep Jones for the short term by using the tag, but that could cost as much as $32,445,000 of the Giants’ projected $52,506,480 of salary cap space. The cheaper move would be to tag Barkley for $10,100,000 and avoid giving him the $16 million and change in annual salary the San Francisco 49ers pay their star back, Christian McCaffrey.
Tagging Barkley would leave those in the Giants’ front office to convince Jones to sign a two- or three-year contract on manageable terms.