The New York Giants held their first mandatory minicamp practice of the offseason on Tuesday, but there was one noticeable player not in attendance, and that was Saquon Barkley.
The 26-year-old star running back is frustrated over not getting a new contract, and he also voiced his disappointment about leaks over his contract negotiation.
The uncertainty of Barkley’s contract situation has been hovering over the team for most of the spring, and it hit a new snag on Sunday when Barkley mentioned that sitting out the season is an option.
Head coach Brian Daboll was asked on Tuesday about Barkley’s situation, and he kept his answer short and sweet.
“Yeah, everything that I have to say about Saquon will remain private,” the 48-year-old head coach replied.
Despite the complications of trying to get to terms on a new deal, it would be shocking when New York host the Cowboys in the season opener if No. 26 is not on the field.
Here are the top four reasons why the Giants don’t have to worry about the star running back sitting out for the season.
Saquon Barkley’s love for the game
No one likes the franchise tag. It makes players feel like they’re being undervalued, and it leaves a cloud over their financial future if they get injured or have a down season.
Players who receive the franchise tag will often sit most or all of training camp to avoid injury but come back in time for the season opener. The reason why they come back is simple. It’s for the love of the game.
Throughout his five-year career, Barkley has expressed how much he loves to play the game of football, and he’s already missed significant playing throughout his career due to injuries. In the grand scheme of things, an athlete’s career is a small window, and it would be hard to fathom that Barkley would sit out a year and miss playing the game he loves while he’s at the peak of his career.
Sitting out a season didn’t work out well for Le’Veon Bell
It wouldn’t be unprecedented for a Pro Bowl running back that wears number 26 to sit out a season. Le’Veon Bell did this in 2018 when the Pittsburgh Steelers used the franchise tag for the second year in a row after the two sides were unable to agree on a new deal. Ironically, this occurred while Bell was also 26 years old.
Bell would sign a four-year $52.5 million contract with the New York Jets the following year, but he never achieved the heights he did when he was a Steeler. He never rushed for more than 789 yards in a season or averaged more than four yards per carry for the rest of his career.
Some of Bell’s demise could be attributed to the fact that the Jets were not as talented as the Steelers, but it can also be taken into account that when you miss a year of football, it’s hard to knock off the rust and be as sharp as the player you once were.
Prior to sitting out, Bell was building a resume that could have one day led him into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Instead, he retired following the 2021 season and is now trying to make it as a boxer.
If Barkley factors in what happened to Bell in his decision-making, he’ll be back on the field sooner than later.
There’s no guarantee his value will go up next season
The sad reality for NFL running backs is that the position continues to be devalued. Dalvin Cook knows this all too well after being cut by the Minnesota Vikings after four consecutive seasons rushing for at least 1,135 yards. As of this moment, the 27-year-old Cook remains unsigned.
In today’s NFL, the passing game propels teams to the top, and front offices give quarterbacks and receivers the top dollar when it comes to skill position players.
So there’s no guarantee if Barkley sits out the year to avoid an injury that a team will be willing to give Barkley a lucrative long-term contract in 2024. In fact, his value might dip since he would have been away from the game for a year. The offer that general Joe Schoen is offering to Barkley might be the best offer the former Penn State star will see.
New York has a chance at a deeper run in the playoffs
Last season New York was the surprise team of the NFL as they finished the season 9-7-1 and upset the Minnesota Vikings 31-24 in the Wildcard Round.
Now in the second year of the Brian Daboll regime, the belief is the team could be even better this season, thanks to the pieces they added this offseason. But there is no bigger piece than Barkley.
Barkley is by far the team’s best player as he accounted for 27.73% of their offensive yards last season. When a team is poised for a playoff run, everyone in the organization is excited. He expressed how excited he was to make the playoffs for the first time in his career last year, so you know he’s itching to get back, and the only way that will happen is if he’s on the field.
July 17th is the cutoff date for the team and Barkley to agree on a new deal. There’s optimism on both sides that a new deal will be reached. But even if they’re unable to iron out a new contract, expect Barkley to sit out all or most of training camp, but be back in time for the season opener, playing under the franchise tag that will pay him $10.1 million.