The New York Giants made a massive turnaround in 2023. Between the team’s last playoff appearance in 2016 and 2022, the franchise has a 22-59 record. Thanks to new head coach Brian Daboll, much-maligned quarterback Daniel Jones, and oft-injured running back Saquon Barkley, the G-Men finished 9-7-1 this season and are back in the postseason. After the playoffs are over for the Giants, though, the real decisions begin. Both the QB and RB are free agents this offseason, and the team must figure out what to do with the Saquon Barkley contract and the Daniel Jones contract.
The next Saquon Barkley contract should be the franchise tag
The current Saquon Barkley contract is the fifth-year option of his rookie deal. That means the running back made a fully-guaranteed $7,217,000.
Playing out a fifth-year option is somewhat rare for first-round picks. Usually, teams either don’t pick up the option if the player is a bust in any way and if they are a star, they give the player a contract extension before the end of Year 5.
This is one reason the Saquon Barkley contract is a problem for the Giants right now. The other reason is the Daniel Jones contract.
The Giants drafted Barkley No. 2 overall in 2018. They then took Jones at No. 6 in 2019. The reason their rookie contracts are expiring at the same time is that New York did not pick up Jones’ fifth-year option. If they did, they would have the QB under contract for 2023 at around $22 million.
Now the Giants must decide which player to pay and which to franchise tag.
General manager Joe Schoen can probably get a three- or four-year Daniel Jones contract for somewhere in that $25 million per year range. A long-term Saquon Barkley contract would have to make him one of the highest-paid RBs in the league, in the $15 million neighborhood.
A franchise tag would be much different, though. To franchise Jones, it would cost around $45 million in 2023, while franchising Barkley would be just $10.1 million, per Over The Cap.
Both players need to prove they can perform (Jones) or stay healthy (Barkley) for another season. For the Giants, though, it makes much more sense to franchise the running back and give the quarterback a mid-level longer-tern deal.
Barkley was the driving force of the Giants offense this season
The questions about Saquon Barkley (and, more importantly, a long-term Saquon Barkley contract) have nothing to do with his talent. It’s all about health.
And in 2022, Barkley reminded everyone about his talent and stayed healthy while doing it.
After bursting onto the NFL scene as a rookie and leading the league with 2,028 yards from scrimmage, Barkley played just 28 games in the next three seasons. Under offensive guru Brian Daboll in 2022, he has a massive bounce-bac campaign.
Barkley played 16 of 17 games this season and had 295 carries for 1,312 rushing yards, 57 catches for 338 receiving yards, and 10 total touchdowns. Those numbers put Barkley in the top 10 of carries (fourth), rushing yards (fourth), and rushing touchdowns (ninth). Plus, it earned the running back his first Pro Bowl berth since his rookie season.
Daboll said from the beginning that the Giants roster would dictate his offense, and that’s exactly what happened. After running the pass-happy offense for Josh Allen and the Buffalo Bills, Daboll came to New Jersey and implemented a run-based scheme to take advantage of Barkley and Jones’ talents. The team finished fourth in the NFL in rushing with 2,519 yards.
Now that the team’s RB and QB have made the squad a success, it will be fascinating to watch how the franchise values each. We’ll find out this offseason with the Saquon Barkley contract and the Daniel Jones contract if they come at all.