Can the Giants bring back Daniel Jones and Saquon Barkley?
EAST RUTHERFORD, New Jersey. It was the most important game of the last six seasons for the New York Giants, and running back Sakwon Barkley jumped and swung his left arm to warm up the home crowd with his quarterback during the Week 17 rout. from the Indianapolis Colts.
Barkley enjoyed the moment Daniel Jones walked off the field to a standing ovation as the Giants won their first playoff bid since 2016.
Barkley was one of the first to take on the quarterback, one of his best friends on the team. They play golf and vacation together, most recently heading to Miami for a quick post-season break.
Together, Barkley and Jones sailed through the NFL abyss during a string of terrible seasons when there seemed to be little hope for the floundering franchise. Now what they talked about and imagined so many times in those years has become a reality. They were finally on the right side in this decisive playoff victory.
“I told him, ‘I love you,'” Barkley said of his embrace with Jones on the field, emotions overwhelmed him because all the years of hard work paid off.
The Giants advanced to the playoffs with a 9–7–1 record and won the playoff game in Minnesota, but lost in the divisional round to the Philadelphia Eagles. This left unfinished business for Jones and Barkley that may never come to fruition, even if the Giants choose to re-sign.
Two of New York’s top forwards are about to become free agents.
Jones, once considered a turnover machine, played nine games in 18 games last season, including the playoffs. He also rushed for 708 yards and had seven touchdowns in the regular season. He did everything the Giants asked for in his first year with coach Brian Daball and offensive coordinator Mike Kafka.
Barkley’s 1,312 yards were fourth in the league this season, behind only Josh Jacobs, Derrick Henry and Nick Chubb. His nine 20+ yard carries were good for the fifth best. Barkley had the best season since he was a rookie and was a finalist in the Returned Player of the Year competition.
The Giants have made their intentions clear when it comes to Jones’ future.
“We’re excited to have Daniel here,” general manager Joe Shawn said at a post-season press conference, perhaps missing his plan. “We are happy that he will be here.”
Barkley’s future in New York is far less certain. This is a reflection of the positions they play. Over the past five seasons, 64% of the top 10 runners have been on rookie contracts. A team can only use the franchise tag for one player, and if Jones does sign an extension, that would make Barkley the one most likely to be tagged.
And Barkley’s injury history doesn’t help. It was the first season since his rookie season that he did not miss a single game. Barkley missed a total of 20 games from 2019 to 2021 with multiple ankle injuries and an ACL tear in his right knee in 2020.
The Giants have two of the most notable free agents this offseason and one franchise tag to ensure at least one or both stay.
BARKLEY WAS the face of the franchise since being selected second overall in 2018. Fans flock to Barkley for training and personal appearances. Barkley is also the team’s most requested player.
Despite playing a total of 15 games in 2020 and 2021, Barkley’s jersey has been the best-selling jersey of the past three years, according to global digital sports platform Fanatics, which is also the team’s e-commerce partner. Its sales in 2022 have almost doubled compared to the previous year.
Former Giants quarterback Eli Manning understands how hard it is to be in Barkley’s position.
“People listen to what you say, but they also watch what you do and what you do and how you handle everything,” Manning said ahead of the Super Bowl. “It comes with a lot of responsibility. You have to make sure the guys you award can handle it.”
But Barkley is not a franchise quarterback. Sean noted that the two sides “were not close” to an agreement when they spoke during the final week in November. They rekindled their relationship after the season, but little seems to have changed.
According to league and team sources, the deal, which Barkley turned down last week, was worth more than $12 million a year. This is a solid cashback, but not the top of the market. San Francisco’s Christian McCaffrey is currently the standard with $16 million per season.
Only McCaffrey, Alvin Kamara, Ezekiel Elliott, Dalvin Cook, Henry and Chubb currently have contracts worth more than $12 million per season.
Barkley, 26, has already made it clear he has no intention of “rebooting” the runner market. It is thought that if the two sides meet for $14 million a year, a deal could be done, a source close to the talks recently told Sportzshala.
Another problem for Barkley is that the franchise running back tag is $10.1 million.
That doesn’t give Barkley much clout, especially if the Giants can get a deal with Jones first. This is less money than he has already been offered, and without long-term security.
“If you ask anyone, they’d prefer a long-term deal and not be tagged,” Barkley told Sportzshala the day after the Giants’ season ended. “But, unfortunately, this is part of our business. That’s what they can do.”
The time when teams can use the franchise tag is from February 21 to March 7. The clock is ticking.
Owner John Mara is actively involved in the daily activities of the team and understands the value of Barkley. Barkley’s personal team, especially his business manager, is also close to co-owner Steve Tisch.
“I am, of course, aware [Barkley’s star power]but I don’t think that’s the main factor [in personnel decisions]Mara told Sportzshala last year after Barkley’s name was publicly revealed as a possible target for the trade.
“Listen, I like him. He was a great spokesperson for us.”
This is something the Barkley team will no doubt use in their negotiations.
“Of course I would [use it in negotiations]” said former Giants running back Tiki Barber, the team’s most recognizable hitter in the early 2000s. “Actually, it was an argument when my agent was negotiating with [former Giants GM] Ernie Accorsi: Who do people go to watch when the giants have football? They go to watch Tiki.
“You have to use it,” Barber said. “Whether it works or not is another matter.”
THE GIANTS WAS would like to make a long-term deal with their quarterback, but the $32.4 million franchise is a fallback, in part because they don’t want that full amount to count towards the salary cap and affect their ability to supply him with top playmakers.
Having a franchise tag for Barkley remains the preferred option in case the two parties don’t come to an agreement. The Giants roster is unable to let their best playmaker leave without immediate compensation.
Jones’ new contract is expected to be worth more than $35 million per season, according to multiple sources on the team and close to the quarterback. Anything just over $35 million in a season would put Jones in ninth place among all quarterbacks. However, by the start of next season, Jones is likely to be closer to the top 15 of all quarterbacks, assuming Justin Herbert, Jalen Hurts and Joe Burrow, and Lamar Jackson, if not tagged, get new contracts.
“I was proud of Daniel, the way he played, learned another offense and picked it up,” Manning said. “The way he played in the fourth quarter of a string of games and led the team to victory was amazing; that’s what you want from your quarterback. To do it so fast with a brand new offense, how they were able to compete, make the playoffs, win the playoff game, that’s amazing.
“I hope he will be rewarded for this. I hope he will be a Giants quarterback for a long time.”
So is Barkley.
The feeling they had in that Colts debacle (and again two weeks later in the wild-card round in Minnesota) was the first taste of team success that Barkley and Jones had experienced in their NFL careers. Until this season, they had never had a professional win.
Jones called this year’s team a “special group”. He wants to rebound with a player he called the best running back in the league. Like most of the locker room.
“He’s a leader,” veteran wide receiver Sterling Shepard said last month. “It’s different. His confidence level is off the charts. He is a guy who leads by example and speaks loudly.
“Everyone has their own ways to lead. He makes these plays [this season] gave him that confidence back.
Barkley’s teammates seem to think the Giants will reward their star running back. The Giants will have to massage this delicately if they get together in April without him.
“It matters,” Barber said. “This dressing room is young. If Sakon is their leader, as people say, and who they turn to for advice, and now all of a sudden you don’t pay him, that creates a void.”
The Giants also have to decide how important it is to keep this core. How far can they go by adding key pieces to the attacking line and to the receiver?
This will determine if this season will be the pinnacle and end point for giants Barkley and Jones.
“He’s the best running back in the league and I think he proved it to everyone this year,” Jones said. “He showed what he can do as a playmaker in the dynamic part of this offense.
“I am happy for him. I think he deserves everything that lies ahead of him.”
Jones went out of his way to show how important Barkley was to the Giants’ success. It was his way of jumping up and down and swinging his arm to support his friend and teammate. But the NFL is a league run by quarterbacks, and that could ultimately decide which Giants star gets paid.