4 New York Giants running back options if Saquon Barkley doesn’t return

All eyes will be on New York Giants general manager Joe Schoen this offseason as he has several difficult decisions to make. Not only will he be engaged in contract talks with Daniel Jones, but he’ll have contract negotiations with Saquon Barkley.

Schoen knows both men were two of the biggest reasons for New York having a bounce-back season and making the playoffs for the first since 2016. But he also knows he can’t reset the market for Jones or Barkley as Schoen knows the roster needs massive upgrades at wide receiver, interior offensive line, and at linebacker.

Reaching a deal with Barkley might be more difficult than reaching an agreement with Jones.

It was reported that the 25-year-old running back turned down a contract during the team’s bye week that would have paid him $12 million annually as he’s seeking a deal that will pay him $16 million per year.

Related: New York Giants reportedly won’t want to franchise tag Daniel Jones

Based on that report, giving him the franchise tag that would pay him $10.09 million for next season would not be a viable option.

Although Barkley set a career-high in rushing yards this season (1,312 yards) given his injury history and the wear and tear that comes with the position, you can understand why there’s a price that Schoen won’t be willing to go.

If a deal can’t be agreed upon, Barkley’s departure will leave a huge void in New York’s backfield. However, there are a number of running backs that are poised to be free agents, that would be more than adequate replacements at a price tag that should be less than what Barkley and his agent are demanding.

Related: Daniel Jones opens up about his future with New York Giants

Miles Sanders, Philadelphia Eagles

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One way New York can replace a former Penn State running back is to sign another, pursuing Miles Sanders. Ironically it was Sanders that replaced Barkley as Penn State’s feature back after Barkley left for the NFL after the 2017 season.

Just like Barkley, Sanders is a versatile back that’s not only an excellent runner as he’s averaging five yards per carry for his career, but he’s a reliable receiver coming out of the backfield.

Sanders earned Pro Bowl honors this season, setting career highs in rushing yards (1,269) and rushing touchdowns (11). If the Eagles are going to defeat the Chiefs in Super Bowl LVII, he’ll play a vital role.

Although he’s been a huge part of their offense, the Eagles might allow him to leave via free agency since the team has a number of free agents at key positions. At times, Philadelphia has used a running back by committee as three running backs aside from Sanders had at least 68 carries on the season.

So the Eagles might look to continue this pattern and replace their 25-year-old back in the upcoming draft. If he becomes available, Schoen has to engage in contract talks with him.

Devin Singletary, Buffalo Bills

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With the emergence of rookie running back James Cook, it’s unlikely that the Buffalo Bills will keep Devin Singletary who’s been with the team since 2019. The Bills utilize quarterback Josh Allen’s legs often, Singletary has never had more than 188 carries in a season, despite the fact that he’s averaging 4.7 yards per carry.

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For his career, he has rushed 3,151 yards with 16 rushing touchdowns and has 145 receptions for 971 yards and four touchdowns.

Singletary is obviously familiar with Schoen and head coach Brian Daboll from their time together with the Bills. Their familiarity should make the contract talks go smoothly, which could be the advantage Big Blue needs to lure Singletary to sign with them.

Related: 2023 NFL Draft order

Tony Pollard, Dallas Cowboys

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Tony Pollard was the Cowboys’ most productive back this season averaging 5.2 yards per carry, compared to Ezekiel Elliott (3.8). Emerging as a focal point of the Cowboys’ offense, Pollard earned his first Pro Bowl selection after eclipsing 1,300 scrimmage yards with 12 total touchdowns.

After splitting times with Elliott for the past four seasons, Pollard is looking for an opportunity to be the lead back which is something he can achieve with the Giants. There is a possibility the Cowboys could re-sign him, but a fractured fibula and Jerry Jones’ commitment to Elliott at least open the door to a departure. If Pollard tests free agency and Barkley doesn’t return to New York, this could be a great fit.

David Montgomery, Chicago Bears

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David Montgomery is another four-year running back that is poised to be a free agent. The Chicago Bears seem poised to move forward with Khalil Herbert, allowing Montgomery to test free agency and see if he can find better opportunities.

Related: Top NFL free agents 2023

Montgomery has shown he’s a solid back, despite playing behind a subpar offensive line. He became a 1,000-yard rusher in 2020, setting a career-high in rushing touchdowns (eight) and yards per carry (4.3). After a slight dip in production the following year, Montgomery averaged 4 ypc in 2022, turning a role in a committee backfield into 1,117 scrimmage yards and six touchdowns.

The only knock on him is that he doesn’t have the top-end speed to run past defenders as he only has 21 rushes for 15 yards or more in his career. 

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