Saquon Barkley was in line to get a massive contract extension this offseason but he’ll now have to wait; that could be a good thing for the NY Giants.
Ever since NY Giants’ general manager Dave Gettleman took Saquon Barkley with the #2 overall pick in 2018 in an attempt to take a shortcut at a proper rebuild, the dynamic runningback’s potential second contract has been a polarizing topic of conversation amongst the fanbase.
The major problem with taking Saquon Barkley with that #2 pick was that rookie contracts are slotted based on where they are picked, and instead of the NY Giants getting a potential bargain in terms of salary if they had taken an offensive tackle or pass rusher, they immediately were paying Barkley top-end money right out of the gates.
After Barkley tore his ACL this past Sunday in the second game of his third season, the Giants’ front office is going to have to take a hard look at the situation and finally realize that there is a reason why most of the successful NFL franchises don’t put a premium on runningbacks in this day and age.
Almost all of the big contracts handed out to runningbacks in recent years have blown up in the teams’ faces, with most of the franchises that handed out those deals looking to get out of the extensions before they even really kicked in.
Todd Gurley, David Johnson, Devonta Freeman, and Le’Veon Bell – just to name a few – all signed monster contracts with their respective teams and each contract looked like a disaster before the player even stepped on the field for the second year of said contract.
No runningback serves as a better cautionary tale as to why it is so risky to heavily invest in the position than Todd Gurley. After First-Team All-Pro campaigns in 2017 and 2018, Gurley was the darling of the NFL before signing a record-breaking extension with the Rams that called for him to make $45M in guarantees.
Knee injuries played a major part in Gurley being released before that contract really ever even kicked in and leaves the Rams with well over $20M in dead cap charges over the next couple of seasons — they still felt it was worth it to eat that and let Gurley go which is really telling.
None of those players were Saquon Barkley, though, the defenders of his draft selection said.
And while that may be true, the proof is in the pudding when it comes to the shelf life of runningbacks as they just aren’t able to withstand the grind that 250+ carries year in and year out puts on a player’s body.
Runningbacks and their agents have come to realize that they need to put immense pressure on their respective teams to get paid as soon as they are eligible – which is after their third year of play – or else they run the risk of never getting a proper payday.
Both Alvin Kamara and Christian McCaffrey did just that this offseason and were successful in getting their franchises to hand out big money to them after just three years of play. Both tailbacks were able to secure contracts that will pay them $15M+ annually over the life of their deals, although it remains to be seen how far into those contracts they’ll make it.
It appeared as though Saquon Barkley would just have to make it through this season relatively healthy while putting up the numbers we’re accustomed to seeing him net to get his own massive payday, but his future with the NY Giants should be legitimately up in the air after his second major injury in as many seasons.
While no one wanted to see Barkley go down with an injury, in the long run, this happening when it did could potentially save Big Blue a boatload of money.
I, for one, expected Saquon to sign a deal that would blow any other runningback’s deal out of the water as the NY Giants had already invested so much in him and Dave Gettleman was never going to run the risk of letting him go.
Now, though, Gettleman might not even be around to see Saquon Barkley’s rookie contract through as his job security is on thin ice as the team has stumbled out of the gates to another 0-2 start.
The smart play was always going to be to let Barkley play out his rookie contract, pick up his fifth-year option and then franchise tag him.
That route would allow the Giants to get six years out of Saquon – which is about the maxiumum shelf life of an elite runningback these days – with the team never having to dole out a monster contract that would have likely included at minimum $30M+ in guaranteed dollars.
Saquon Barkley showed us all how dynamic he can be during his record-breaking rookie campaign that saw him put up over 2,000 total yards and 15 touchdowns. But, his injuries have also shown us that he is in fact human and that the team needs to exercise restraint moving forward with his contract situation.
For now, Barkley is going to have to play out the initial four-year rookie deal that pays him about $8M-per-season before the team even considers extending him.
It’s nothing against ‘Quon as a player and a person as he is as rare as they come in both regards.
But the NY Giants are in the midst of a rebuild that was started much too late, and paying a runningback a huge amount of money while the team has so many other pressing needs was never the way to go — it sure isn’t now.