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    Saquon Barkley Contract Drama: What You Need To Know About New York Giants Star

    Saquon Barkley isn't planning to sign his franchise tag anytime soon. How will the New York Giants navigate their backfield in the meantime?

    Saquon Barkley seems unlikely to be involved with the New York Giants’ offseason program for the foreseeable future. Barkley has not signed his franchise tag and will not participate in the Giants’ initial workout sessions next week, according to Kim Jones of Newsday.

    Barkley isn’t alone in declining to sign his franchise tender. Thus far, only Dallas Cowboys running back Tony Pollard has inked his tag. Barkley, Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson, Las Vegas Raiders running back Josh Jacobs, and Jacksonville Jaguars tight end Evan Engram have not signed, while Washington Commanders defensive tackle Daron Payne agreed to a long-term extension.

    What will the Barkley contract saga look like? Is there a chance he’ll eventually agree to a long-term deal, and what will happen if he doesn’t report to the Giants?

    Projecting a Saquon Barkley Extension

    The Giants worked out a last-second extension with quarterback Daniel Jones just before the NFL’s franchise tag deadline, allowing them to use the tender on Barkley. The veteran RB likely would have hit the open market had New York been forced to deploy the tag on Jones, but Barkley is now scheduled to earn just $10.1 million for the 2023 campaign.

    Although Big Blue was believed to have offered Barkley an extension in the $12.5 million per year range in November, the club “slightly” increased its offer after the season concluded, according to Ryan Dunleavy of the New York Post. However, negotiations between Barkley and the Giants now appear to be at a standstill.

    “There’s no outstanding offer right now,” Giants general manager Joe Schoen said at the Scouting Combine in early March. “Once we put the franchise tag on him, we stepped back. We knew throughout the negotiation that there was going to be a time where, if we couldn’t come to an agreement, we were going to go to the franchise tag, and that’s what we did.”

    After rebounding from a two-year lull to post 1,650 total yards and 10 touchdowns in 2022, Barkley is thought to be targeting a contract near the top of the RB market. Christian McCaffrey currently leads the group with a $16 million annual salary.

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    The Giants have until July 17 to hammer out a long-term agreement with Barkley, but there’s been no indication they’re amenable to paying a running back $16 million per year.

    It’s not a premium position, and extensions for veteran running backs have rarely worked out. Meanwhile, RB prospects are readily available in the draft, while viable options like Miles Sanders and David Montgomery recently signed for $6-7 million annually.

    There could potentially be a middle ground around the $14 million mark, but even that would make Barkley the NFL’s third-highest-paid running back behind McCaffrey and Alvin Kamara.

    Both Schoen and Giants head coach Brian Daboll spent years with the Buffalo Bills, who rarely invested significant dollars in their backfield. Barkley is more talented than any back the Bills had under Schoen/Daboll, but New York’s decision-makers might be strategically opposed to shelling out dollars for an RB.

    Unless the Giants change their tune, it’s hard to imagine Barkley suddenly settling for $12.5 million annually. Playing on a one-year franchise tag with no guarantees after 2022 represents a risk, but the prospect of posting another playmaking season and hitting the open market next offseason is probably too tantalizing to pass up.

    Can Barkley Hold Out?

    Because he hasn’t signed his franchise tag, Barkley is still technically a free agent. He’s under no obligation to attend any Giants-related activity as long as he’s not under contract.

    Most players attend offseason minicamp sessions, but attendance is not mandatory. Even if Barkley had signed his tender, he wouldn’t be required to participate in the Giants’ workouts on Monday.

    New York’s mandatory minicamp begins on June 13. If Barkley is under contract at that point, he’d be obligated to attend or face fines. But if he hasn’t signed his tag by then, he can skip minicamp without penalty.

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    Barkley could theoretically hold out for the entire 2023 campaign, but that’s a highly unlikely scenario. He’d sacrifice his $10.1 million salary for the upcoming season, and the Giants could use the franchise tag again in 2024.

    For now, consider Barkley’s absence normal. Players on franchise tags often sit out spring and summer sessions and sometimes even hold out into training camp. Unless Barkley starts missing preseason games or indicates he won’t play during the regular season, his mini-holdout doesn’t mean much.

    What Is the Giants’ Plan B?

    In the unlikely event that Barkley holds out into the regular season, the Giants would need to figure out a backfield solution. At present, the only other backs on New York’s roster are Matt Breida, Gary Brightwell, and Jashaun Corbin. Breida was the only Giants back aside from Barkley to play more than 90 offensive snaps last year.

    Big Blue is likely to select a running back in the 2023 NFL Draft, even if Barkley is fully committed to playing this season. If Barkley leaves next offseason, the Giants will need to have a plan in place for the future.

    A first-round running back seems out of the question, but New York could attack the position on Day 2 or 3. The Giants met with TCU’s Kendre Miller, while they could potentially consider other mid-round options like Tank Bigsby (Auburn), Israel Abanikanda (Pitt), Devon Achane (Texas A&M), or Zach Evans (Ole Miss), all of whom project as second- or third-round picks on Pro Football Network’s Consensus Big Board.

    The free agent RB class has largely been picked over at this point, but there are still options available if the Giants want to add a veteran off the open market. Leonard Fournette, released by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers earlier this offseason, is still out there, while Jerick McKinnon, Kareem Hunt, and Darrell Henderson Jr. could also be on New York’s radar.

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