Saquon Barkley was in a position to be an agent of change. The Giants running back was the first to break his silence amid the running back pay controversy, saying he would sooner sit out than be underpaid.
Then, two days after the league’s top rushers met on a Zoom call to discuss their woeful pay and coordinate a response, Barkley did this:
The #Giants and star RB Saquon Barkley agreed to terms on a new 1-year deal worth up to $11M, sources say, as Barkley gives himself a chance to beat the franchise tag. He gets a $2M signing bonus.
Bottom line: Barkley is coming in & will be at training camp. pic.twitter.com/A5PR7RWLfQ
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) July 25, 2023
The devil is in the details, and we’re left with the most ill-advised, nonsensical contract from a player perspective in recent memory. Not only did Barkley give up all his leverage now, but mortgaged away his future leverage — all for a lateral contract with escalators he will never, ever hit. This contract is so bad it’s truly mystifying how any agent would agree to this, or why Barkley (previously resolute in getting a better deal) would accept it.
What Barkley was set to get, vs. now
After it became clear the Giants and Barkley wouldn’t find common ground on a long-term contract extension, New York decided to use the franchise tag on their star running back. This would have locked him up for one year, allowing him to hit free agency in 2024 — or be tagged once more, this time with a substantial pay raise.
1 year, $10.09M
This was the deal Barkley found unacceptable and appeared ready to hold out over. Instead his contract extension Tuesday is:
1 year, $10.09M with the following performance bonuses:
- $303K if he runs for 1,350 yards, and the Giants make the playoffs
- $303K if he records 11 total touchdowns
- $303K if he records 65 receptions
It should be noted that these performance bonuses are designed to be near-impossible to achieve. Barkley has never rushed for 1,350 yards. He’s recorded 11 touchdowns only once in his career. He hasn’t caught 65 passes since his rookie year and was only targeted 76 times last year. A third of the money is tied to whether the Giants make the playoffs, in an NFC East that still features the Eagles and Cowboys, with a strength of schedule that’s considerably more difficult in 2023.
Even if we assume the best, that everything comes up roses and Barkley is able to earn all his extra money ($909K), he also GAVE UP THE ABILITY TO BECOME A FREE AGENT IN 2024!
Yes, by inking this one-year deal it resets the clock on his franchise tag, meaning the Giants can tag him again next year — and we do all this again. There was no protection built into the deal that prevented the team from tagging him for the first time once more.
While we don’t know the franchise tag figures for 2024, we do know that a second consecutive tag results in a 20 percent pay raise over the tag amount. If we work off the figures for 2023 this means that Barkley gave up a guaranteed $2.01M on a second tag, in exchange for $909K in possible bonuses that he probably won’t get.
Moreover he broke the line and completely screwed over Josh Jacobs, who was also on the Sunday RB Zoom call, and reportedly left Las Vegas without signing his franchise tag — and with no intention of doing so. Also, by signing for exactly the same base money as the tag itself, he didn’t even bump up the figure for other tagged backs.
In short: Saquon Barkley signed the most mind-boggling, team-friendly deal imaginable that ensures he begins training camp with the team and rewards them for not paying him. It also comes eight days after he echoed the sentiments of RBs around the league who felt undervalued and insulted by low-ball offers.
The only way running backs were going to be heard was by using their leverage. Barkley caved to the gentlest of breezes, and with him any hopes of seeing pay boosts are gone. It’s now on the next round of running backs up for extensions to hold the line.