The Giants’ relationship with Saquon Barkley is officially awkward. And it could soon become ugly.
General manager Joe Schoen has pulled a previous contract offer after hitting Barkley with the franchise tag. Co-owner John Mara has expressed his admiration for the star running back, but says the team can only pay him so much.
And now coach Brian Daboll — who has earned acclaim for frequently communicating with his players — has not talked to Barkley in two weeks. And he does not know if he will participate in the Giants’ offseason program. But whether Barkley does or does not (he likely won’t) matters little. The questions that should be asked: Will he show up for training camp? Or by Week 1?
The Giants offered Barkley deals worth $12-13 million annually several times. Guaranteed money figures were never reported, but it seems likely Schoen was willing to match or surpass the $22 million he would get on back-to-back tags. Barkley wanted more, turned it down and has since endured a chain of disaster.
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The Giants reached a last-minute deal with Daniel Jones, allowing them to tag Barkley. The sides remained far apart in the run-up to free agency. And then the running back market tanked. At which point the Giants realized they were almost assuredly negotiating against themselves the whole time. Hence the reset.
Is yanking the offer a bit rough? Undoubtedly. But the NFL is a cutthroat business. And the Giants have all the leverage here.
Barkley is not employed by the Giants until he signs the tag tender or gets a long-term deal. It seems highly unlikely at this point either will happen before the July 15 deadline for tagged players to sign extensions. That means Barkley will likely stay home from organized team activities and the mandatory minicamp. Which would be a nothingburger in the grand scheme of things.
What happens on July 16 and beyond is a different story. Barkley could begrudgingly sign the tag right before camp and play the year out, hoping he is healthy and productive enough to regain leverage come next offseason. Or he could make things even more messy by missing some or all of camp and showing up right before the season starts. If even then.
Yes, the Giants could rescind Barkley’s tag if he makes things that messy. But it is hard to imagine Mara would permit it. Or that he would sign off on a trade. And it is hard to imagine Barkley would risk sitting out the entire year without collecting a single penny. Former Jets disappointment Le’Veon Bell had already been tagged once (and made $12 million) when he skipped the 2018 season. The two situations do not compare.
Barkley messed around and found out. The Giants have all the power and plan to use it. So now things are likely going to get much worse before they get better. Buckle up.
James Kratch can be reached at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @jameskratch.