Saquon Barkley lit the league on fire and showed positive signs at the end of 2019, but is it too soon to rush into paying him record money?
Soon after the Carolina Panther’s Christian McCaffery signed a 4 year, 64 million dollar contract with 30 million guaranteed, NY Giants running back Saquon Barkley started receiving some hype for his contract negotiations that could start as early as next year, too.
After two consecutive seasons of 1,400+ yards from scrimmage, it seems to be a home run to pay the only 23-year-old back the 17 million dollars per year he reportedly wants.
But after suffering a high ankle sprain in week 3 against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Barkley missed three games and didn’t cross the century mark for rushing yards in a game until week 15 after starting the season with two straight such performances.
Now Barkley did bounce back in the last three weeks the season, accumulating 393 rushing yards off 63 carries and showing visibly more confidence in his injured ankle in cutting on it. The previous seven weeks consisted of him running entirely north-south and relegated him to just being an above-average back that could still show off yards after contact.
With his injury healed, he could start bouncing runs to the front or back sides and show off secondary and tertiary cuts as he heads to the second and third levels.
— ESNY (@EliteSportsNY) December 15, 2019
On this particular run, Saquon has to cut backside after the Dolphins linebackers fill the inside holes available. When you do this, you often have to make a man miss and that’s exactly what he does and his speed takes it from there.
So far this offseason, Barkley has not dissuaded anyone into thinking he might not be 100%.
Good luck stopping @saquon this year 😤
(via gibson_pt/IG) pic.twitter.com/SiT0YW3CTL
— B/R Gridiron (@brgridiron) June 25, 2020
From this video, he seems like he retained much of his cutting ability and looks to be in prime shape. That will provide plenty of leverage for him in contract talks.
Will previous injury history stall NY Giants?
What won’t though is his injury history with the same right ankle he sustained the high ankle sprain on. Barkley actually sustained the same injury on the same ankle in his freshman year of college in 2016, only missing two games in the process and rushing for over 1,000 yards.
So far it seems that Barkley has bounced back from both injuries well. What’s worrying is that Barkley’s third season will be the true test of whether he’s back to his old form. Extending Barkley now or before the season makes little sense because of that.
The NY Giants need to pay attention to past similar situations like this one
One advantage of drafting a player in the first round is that you get the fifth-year option. Even if Barkley explodes and has a monster season it makes no sense talking to a runningback about a contract extension with so much time left on the rookie deal.
Not to mention, the team could use the franchise tag on Saquon Barkley in his sixth and seventh seasons, so the negotiating power in on their side.
Even If Saquon Barkley performs spectacularly during the 2020 season and stays healthy, there doesn’t seem to be much of a reason why the NY Giants should enter contract talks with him.
Doing it now seems far too early given the events of last season and the fragility of running backs that take extended touches. Zack Rosenblatt of NJ.com pointed out that Todd Gurley might be the best example of a situation like Barkley’s.
Gurley signed a long-term extension after three straight seasons over 1,000 yards from scrimmage, but only lasted two more years with the Rams after they cut him in 2019. Keep in mind Gurley’s injury history was much more extensive, with a bad ACL tear in college and subsequent arthritis that put him out of business with the Rams.
Most -if not all – of the recent largest runningbacks have gone up in flames, and that’s something the NY Giants have to come in mind here, no matter how special Saquon Barkley is; history shows paying runningbacks early does not work.
Barkley is a phenomenal talent and should be treated as such. But with up to four more possible years the NY Giants could have him (includes fifth-year option and franchise tag), they should take their time making a decision and monitoring his durability
Rushing a huge deal that will make Barkley the highest-paid back in the NFL is a gigantic step and not one to be taken lightly.