The New York Giants are going all-in on their desperately-needed rebuild. Many thought that would entail moving on from veteran running back Saquon Barkley, the 2018 second-overall pick and the crown jewel of Big Blue’s previous regime. Yet as we approach the final week of March, Barkley is still on a roster that, barring a miracle, will produce a lot of losses in 2022.
This offseason has featured more stars on the move than ever before. Russell Wilson, Deshaun Watson, and Davante Adams are just three of the big-name players who have a new home. Now you can add Tyreek Hill, the blazing-fast wide receiver who went from the Kansas City Chiefs to Miami Dolphins in the latest NFL blockbuster.
The insanity of this offseason has proven two things. First, no superstar is untouchable. Second, the Giants should bite the bullet and move on from their entertaining-yet-disappointing running back.
Saquon Barkley has fallen short of his lofty expectations
When Barkley joined New York as the second overall pick, former general manager Dave Gettleman praised the back as someone “touched by the hand of God.” There was little doubt in his mind or the rest of the front office’s mind that the Penn State star would transform a Giants offense featuring the likes of Eli Manning and Odell Beckham Jr.
At the end of year one, Barkley looked every bit the star many anticipated. But three full seasons later, Giants fans are wondering when (or if) the 2018 Rookie of the Year will look like his old self again.
In 2019, Saquon still managed to eclipse the 1,000-yard barrier despite missing three games with a high ankle sprain. However, the star running back’s 2020 campaign ended in Week 2 after a devastating tear to his ACL.
Last season, it was clear that Barkley was still hobbled by the ACL. The 25-year-old averaged just 3.66 yards per carry and ran for 593 yards and two touchdowns in 13 games. Along with putting together a single 100-yard game, he also missed four weeks with a low ankle injury.
It’s not just health that has kept “SaQuads” from reaching his full potential. The Giants’ offense as a whole has taken a nosedive under former head coaches Pat Shurmur and Joe Judge. Additionally, New York has still struggled to address its offensive line, something Barkley needs in order to succeed.
The Tyreek Hill trade should force the Giants to pursue a Barkley trade
Wednesday morning, the Chiefs and Dolphins pulled off a stunning blockbuster few saw coming. Despite several elite years in Kansas City, Hill was moved to Miami in exchange for a first-, second-, and fourth-round pick in 2022 and a fourth- and sixth-round pick in 2023. The Fins then inked Cheetah to a four-year, $120 million extension, making him the highest-paid wideout in NFL history.
The Dolphins took one look at a highly-competitive AFC and realized that a major move was necessary in order to contend. Meanwhile, the Chiefs received max value on a player they were unlikely to extend.
How does this apply to the Giants? For starters, while Barkley has underperformed in relation to his draft position, there are teams who could still be infatuated with his talent. Take a team like the Buffalo Bills, who already have a franchise QB and a blueprint for success. Given the aggressive moves they’ve seen their division and conference rivals make, could the Bills view Barkley as the final piece of the puzzle?
The other side of the coin for Big Blue is Barkley’s long-term future in New York. By now, it’s become obvious that second contracts for first-round running backs hardly return any value. With new general manager Joe Schoen replacing the incompetent Gettleman, the likelihood New York keeps Saquon beyond this season is already slim. So why not trade him now and try to accrue some draft compensation?
New York wouldn’t receive anything close to what Kansas City got for Hill if it made Barkley available in a trade. But even if it’s a fourth- and sixth-round pick, that’s something the rebuilding Giants have to consider. After all, how successful can the G-Men actually be if they keep the back for what’s sure to be a difficult season?
Trading Saquon Barkley also makes financial sense
For a Chiefs team that’s about to pay Patrick Mahomes a king’s ransom, keeping its Super Bowl-caliber core together was going to eventually become impossible. So as much as Hill meant to Mahomes and KC’s dynamic offense, it knew the looming salary cap danger lying ahead.
Schoen is already experiencing the wrath of the salary cap in his first offseason with Big Blue. Gettleman left New York with four wins and over $7 million to shed just to get under the cap. So while New York has already made cost-cutting moves, it still has a long way to go to reach Schoen’s target of clearing $40 million.
Naturally, moving on from Barkley will help with that mission. The fifth-year back is set to earn $7.2 million in the final year of his rookie contract. Trading him for draft picks would take that money off of New York’s payroll and allow it to allocate the funds toward rookie draft picks and other critical areas of need.
Trading Barkley, Gettleman’s poster child, would be the ultimate sign that a new era of Giants football has arrived. And considering the big names we’ve already seen on the move, now is the time for Big Blue to strike.