saquon barkley sam darnold giants jets
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How much would Saquon Barkley and Sam Darnold make if their respective teams exercised their fifth-year options?

And just like that, Saquon Barkley and Sam Darnold are entering their fourth NFL seasons. Feels like it was just yesterday they were going back-to-back in the 2018 draft; Barkley No. 2 to the Giants and Darnold No. 3 to the Jets.

So with their fourth seasons awaiting, so do the decisions for both New York teams in regard to whether they should utilize the fifth-year option. On Wednesday, we received a bit of clarity on the financials for either potential decision, given the NFL set the cap at $182.5 million.

Barkley’s fifth season (2022) would include a salary and cap hit of $7.217 million while Darnold’s fifth season would have an $18.858 million salary and cap hit, according to Spotrac. Saquon’s salary (fully guaranteed) is equivalent to the transition tag price for running backs and based on the fact he’s already made one Pro Bowl. Sam’s salary, on the other hand, is the average of the 3rd-to-20th-highest salaries for the quarterback position, according to SNY’s Ralph Vacchiano.

The Giants should absolutely utilize the fifth-year option on their star running back. They shouldn’t jump the gun on providing him with a long-term extension given the fact he’s missed 17 total games over the last two seasons (three in 2019 with a high ankle sprain, 14 in 2020 with a torn ACL). Barkley must prove he can return to his 2018 rookie-year form — he earned the AP Offensive Rookie of the Year Award and led the league in scrimmage yards that season.

Big Blue has until May 3 to exercise the option; expect general manager Dave Gettleman to do so before potentially extending Saquon next offseason.

As for the Jets and Darnold, it’s a much different situation. Ahead of the 2021 season, it’s legitimately unclear whether the 23-year-old is the man for the starting quarterback job. He hasn’t experienced an efficient development in three seasons, and with a new Robert Saleh-led coaching staff now in place, the organization may elect to undergo a full restart and draft BYU’s Zach Wilson at No. 2 overall.

If the Jets do roll the dice with Darnold in year four, there’s a possibility they’d exercise this option on him. There’s definitely no chance they’d extend his contract this offseason given the uncertainties in and around his play.

Could they extend him next offseason? Well, a lot may happen between now and then — we might have an entire 2021 season to analyze and decide if he’s truly the Jets’ long-term answer at quarterback.

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