We are officially at DEFCON 2 with the Saquon Barkley contract standoff.
The franchise-tagged running back’s camp just took a big — and long-awaited — swing at the Giants. The Post is reporting Big Blue’s best guaranteed money offer to Barkley was $19.5 million — a leak clearly orchestrated by Barkley’s side to paint the Giants as lowballing villains as the tag extension deadline fast approaches.
And yes, that does seem damning for the Giants at first glance. Barkley would make $22.2 million in guaranteed money if he were to play back-to-back seasons on the tag. And the two-year tag figure is typically considered the guaranteed money floor in these situations.
However … the report compares the $19.5 million figure to the practical guaranteed money numbers the league’s top-paid backs have received in recent years. Which could further illustrate the Giants are trying to take the screws to Barkley. Or it could be a tell that Barkley’s representation is peddling deceptive information in an effort to mask its missteps in the long-running saga.
Remember: Pro Football Talk reported Wednesday the Giants had offered Barkley a pre-tag deal with a $13 million average salary and $26 million over the first two years. Barkley insinuated the report was false on Twitter. But if the deal included $26 million in practical guarantees … that is much more reasonable in the grand scheme of the current market at his position.
(Initial guaranteed money is what a player is guaranteed at the time of signing. Practical guaranteed money kicks in at a later date, but it almost assuredly to be awarded — usually guarantees that trigger early in the offseason following the first year of the new contract.)
So what next? The tag deadline is Monday at 4 p.m. Barkley has added CAA to his negotiations team — another sign his side may have overplayed its hand earlier in the process. This more aggressive tact could push the Giants toward their demands. Or it could repel them. General manager Joe Schoen still holds all the leverage. And if he feels Barkley is trying to smear him, it could backfire.
The Giants have no compelling football reason to give Barkley a long-term deal. Forcing a dynamic, but injury-prone, at a position of diminished importance to play on the tag for $10.1 million makes the most sense for them. Maybe co-owner John Mara gets carried away with his personal affinity for Barkley and meddles. But Schoen has been able to maintain a separation of church and state so far. And everyone knows Barkley’s threats to skip regular season games are hollow. Yes, he will likely sit out training camp. But that is not the end of the world. So the Giants have no reason to bend.