Hard Knocks Part 1: Joe Schoen made a New York Giants-sized mistake

New York Giants
Credit: Danielle Parhizkaran-USA TODAY Sports

The series debut of Hard Knocks: Offseason with the New York Giants premiered, and there’s a lot to unpack. It’s the first time HBO’s series has focused on a team during the offseason, and we couldn’t imagine picking a better franchise to watch.

The Giants had a busy and controversial offseason, with several potential franchise-altering decisions to make. Those included determining the future of Daniel Jones as their franchise quarterback, analyzing their best skill player’s fit with the team in Saquon Barkley, and finding a new offensive identity through the draft with the sixth overall pick.

By now, we know which choices Giants GM Joe Schoen made, but how did the front office reach these conclusions? That’s what Hard Knocks is helping uncover, and even the season debut delivered a lot of golden nuggets. Let’s dive in.

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Joe Schoen, New York Giants disrespected Saquon Barkley

Saquon Barkley
Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

The first and most obvious takeaway from episode one of Hard Knocks with the New York Giants was how they handled (botched) the Saquon Barkley negotiations. It became evident that Joe Schoen had horrifically misread the free agency market, especially when it comes to evaluating premier talent.

When healthy and given a respectable offensive line, Barkley has the talent to be a top-five running back in the NFL, maybe top-three. Several NFL executives agree. Giants owner John Mara appeared to agree too, stating, “In a perfect world, I’d still like to have him back.” If that’s not a signal to sign Barkley, I don’t know what is.

But as even Schoen admitted, “You could have Pat Mahomes and he couldn’t f-ing win behind that. I’m not giving up on him.” Okay… then why did you give up on your best offensive player?

But it got better. Schoen also said, “We’ve gotta upgrade the offensive line, and you’re paying Daniel Jones $40M. It’s not to hand the ball off to a $12M back.” Really? Because your rivals are.

The Eagles just agreed to pay Jalen Hurts $51 million so he can hand it off to the Giants’ best-skill position player, and they’re better for it. Perhaps Giants executive Tim McDonnell said it best, “We lose Saquon, what’s our identity gonna be?”

The truth is, without Barkley, the Giants don’t have an offensive identity. Their only saving grace was selecting LSU star receiver Malik Nabers with the sixth overall pick. But relying on a rookie receiver to immediately take your offense to the next level is a very risky move. Especially when considering their QB is coming off a torn ACL, and they now lack an explosive running back who could relieve pressure.

“Are we positive that nobody is going to pay him that kind of money?” – Rossetti

“Who would you say would go sign a running back to that dollar amount?” – Schoen

“Anyone that has money to spend,” – Rossetti

“There’s a lot of running backs in free agency,” – Schoen

“But are there any potential difference-makers after you watch this film?” – Rossetti

New York Giants front office discussing Saquon Barkley

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Giants preferred to bargain shop for a familiar face instead of their ‘difference-maker’

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For the record, the Eagled did sign Barkley to a three-year, $37.5 million contract. We don’t know how much the Giants offered, but that doesn’t seem like a ridiculous amount for a team chasing a Super Bowl. Yet, as the episode revealed, Schoen believes running backs decline once they reach the age of 27, as Barkley now is.

However, couldn’t they have agreed to a three-year extension last offseason instead of using the franchise tag? He’d then be entering the second season of a three-year deal, and they might have even been able to get him for less than the $37.5 the Eagles got him for.

Ultimately, the Giants (Schoen) completely misjudged the market. He wondered how many teams would even need a running back while alluding to a “saturated” market with several contingency plans. Even Chris Rossetti, Giants director of pro scouting, cautioned, “How many of those guys are difference-makers?”

Because the Giants didn’t end up with a playmaker, certainly not like the one they had. He instead opted for a player Schoen had history with, signing former Bills and Texans running back Devin Singletary to a three-year, $16.5 million contract.

Rush Yds per seasonTDRec YdsRec TD
Saquon Barkley868.55.83502
Devin Singletary809.84232.80.8
Saquon Barkley stats provided by Pro Football Reference – Career averages shown
Career-best Rush YdsTDRec YdsRec TD
Saquon Barkley1,312 (2022)117214
Devin Singletary898 (2023)72802
Devin Singletary stats provided by Pro Football Reference – Career-bests, but not all in the same season

Singletary, is 26, but he’s never had a 1,000-yard rushing season, Barkley has had three of them, and four with over 1K from scrimmage. Singletary’s had three of those too. But he’s never scored more than eight touchdowns in a season. Aside from two seasons mired by major injuries, Barkley’s never had a season with fewer than eight touchdowns. That’s what we call a difference-maker.

When analyzing the market, Schoen pondered how many teams would even be willing to spend top dollar on a running back. He believed that a team as stacked as the Eagles just wouldn’t allocate the funds to a player like Barkley. He was wrong.

It’s true that the running back position has become devalued, but if there’s one thing this offseason proved, it’s that when a special talent available, he’s worth paying extra for. Once the season kicks off, we’ll see just how valuable Barkley is, playing behind what should be an improved Eagles offensive line and scheme, compared to what the Giants provided in recent years.

Related: 5 Things to watch during New York Giants’ Hard Knocks series

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