New York Giants make huge gamble in Saquon Barkley deal

Saquon Barkley of Penn State poses with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell after being picked #2 overall by the New York Giants during the first round of the 2018 NFL Draft (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)
Saquon Barkley of Penn State poses with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell after being picked #2 overall by the New York Giants during the first round of the 2018 NFL Draft (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images) /

Hopefully, running back Saquon Barkley quiets the naysayers and skeptics quickly.

As much as the New York Giants act like Barkley’s stardom is a fait accompli, in reality, it is certainly not. According to ESPN, the No. 2 overall draft pick signed a massive four-year, $31.2 million contract on Sunday. The pact simply ups the ante as training camp begins.

Without playing a down of NFL football, Barkley becomes the fourth highest paid running back in the league. And Barkley becomes the first of the top 4 NFL draft picks to sign this year. The market for quarterbacks Baker Mayfield (Cleveland) and Sam Darnold (New York Jets) now gets set by Bakley’s pact. And count halfback Le’Veon Bell of the Pittsburgh Steelers as jealous.

New York Giants
New York Giants /

New York Giants

Make no mistake, this contact is massive for a player at any position. But for a player who is not a quarterback or left tackle, it’s definitely an outlier. Hopefully Barkley makes this transition easy, but history is not on that side.

Quote the Dallas Cowboys and Ezekiel Elliott all you want, this isn’t the same. The New York Giants offensive line does not compare to the ‘Boys line of two years ago. And even with the rookie salary cap in place, this contract appears as much more generous than even the Carson Wentz deal two seasons ago.


"“The deal also immediately pays out $15 million, a significant chunk negotiated by his Roc Nation agent Kim Miale. It’s believed that the immediate payout is the largest in at least five years, since the rookie wage scale was changed in 2013.”"

It’s not just that Barkley has to be good, in order to live up to this mega deal, he has to be epically great.

Been there, done that

As much as it probably doesn’t make sense, many folks compare guys who played the same position at a given school. There are cautionary tales about drafting a Notre Dame quarterback. Right now, I’m not in love with cornerbacks from the University of Alabama.

Tops on the “be careful” list are Penn State running backs. Does that even make sense?

Probably not, but these scenarios also remind us there are no sure things in the NFL draft. Yet a significant portion of the fanbase already claims that Barkley is just that. Perhaps, they should read up on Blair Thomas or Ki-Jana Carter.

Those guys also had skill sets that wowed coaches and scouts in the 1990s. Both players eventually became proof positive that the draft can be imprecise. As a matter of education, Thomas was supposed to be the franchise changer for the New York Jets. He wasn’t even close.

According to Pro Football Reference, Thomas played five seasons in the NFL. He never came close to eclipsing the 1,000-yard rushing mark in any season. Drafted by the Cincinnati Bengals in 1996, Ki-Jana Carter played seven seasons in the NFL. He barely surpassed 1,000 rushing yards for his entire career (1,144 yards).

As the ink dries on Barkley’s contract, it’s time to get to work on the 2018 NFL season. For all intents and purposes, it’s already become the “season of Barkley”. In his short tenure with the team, general manager Dave Gettleman has made several fundamentally important decisions. For example, Gettleman was part of the team that hired Pat Shurmur as coach. Then he and Shurmur recommitted to quarterback Eli Manning.

Later on, Gettleman also invested heavily in left tackle Nate Solder and linebacker Alex Ogletree. And the GM reluctantly sent Jason Pierre-Paul to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for a draft pick.

Next: Pro Football Focus is no fan of New York Giants pass-rush either

None of those decisions compare in scope to the Barkley selection and signing. It will forever be a franchise changer one way or another. To be sure, Barkley will define Gettleman’s tenure as general manager. The last time something similar happened, Ernie Accorsi traded for quarterback Eli Manning. No matter what anyone says, that mega deal actually worked out better than expected. Here’s hoping that this decision plays out as well as that one did for the franchise.