The Monday 4 PM ET. deadline came and went, and the New York Giants were unable to agree to a new contract with star running back Saquon Barkley. This means they won’t be able to work out a new deal until after the 2023 season.
The impasse between the two sides was the guaranteed money for this season and next season. It’s been reported that New York was willing to give Barkley $19.5 million guaranteed over the next two seasons. However, Barkley and his representatives didn’t see that as a viable offer considering the 26-year-old running back will make $10.1 million this season if he signs the franchise tag, and $12.1 million next year if the Giants tagged him again.
Now the ball is in Barkley’s court. It’s expected that he’ll sit out all or most of training camp. The earliest will likely see him would be shortly after the Giants’ final preseason game against the New York Jets on August 26th. There’s also the possibility that the star running back will sit out the season as he’s previously threatened.
So now the question is, how does New York move forward without the man that was responsible for 27.73% of their offense a season ago? General manager Joe Schoen knew months ago there was a possibility he would be unable to reach a deal with his Pro Bowl running back, and he seems to have two plans in place to replace Barkley.
Eric Gray moves up to No. 1 on New York Giants depth chart
With the 172nd overall pick in the 2023 NFL Draft, Schoen selected Eric Gray from the University of Oklahoma. In his final year in college, Gray rushed for 1,366 yards on 213 carries and scored 11 touchdowns. He also showed his versatility as a pass catcher after hauling in 33 receptions for 229 yards.
In college, he returned punts and kickoffs and the thought was he might resume those responsibilities in his first year with the Big Blue. However, with the latest development regarding Barkley, Gray could be thrust into a new role and that’s number one on the running back depth chart.
Shortly after being drafted, Gray was asked what he could bring to the team.
“I’ll do what it takes for the team. I’m a ‘we guy’ not a ‘me guy’ – I’ll do what it takes for the team,” Gray responded.
The team likes what it sees in Gray and feels confident that he can have a successful NFL career. We’ve seen late-round rookie running backs enter the league and have immediate success such as Isiah Pacheco with the Kansas City Chiefs last season. He led the team in rushing with 830 yards. Perhaps, the New York Giants and Eric Gray can have similar success.
Gray and the rest of the rookies will report to camp on Tuesday. The 23-year-old rookie running back will see a ton of action to ensure he has a full grasp of the offense. Then, the rest of the team will report to camp on Wednesday, July 26.
Running back by committee approach
In addition to Gray, veterans Matt Breida and Gary Brightwell will see more reps with the first-team offense in the wake of Barkley’s absence. Both played sparingly last season. Breida carried the ball 54 times for 220 yards and a touchdown. Brightwell ran the ball 31 times for 141 yards and a touchdown.
These two will be ready for larger roles and partake in a running back my committee role if that’s what head coach Brian Daboll and offensive coordinator Mike Kafka have in mind.
During his four seasons as the Buffalo Bills offensive coordinator (2018-2021), Daboll never had a running back carry the ball more than 188 times during the regular season. That’s a huge contrast to the 295 times Barkley carried the ball a season ago.
Don’t be surprised if the 48-year-old head coach reverts back to the same strategy he did when he was with Buffalo and split carries between Gray, Breida, and Brightwell.