Saquon Barkley Landing Spots: Bears, Falcons, and Lions Loom as Free Agent Suitors

What if the Giants are open to trading or not re-signing RB Saquon Barkley? Here are teams that should consider signing him, including the Bears and Lions.

The 2023 NFL offseason is going to bring plenty of rumors between free agency and the NFL draft. One team with multiple key free agents who have to make expensive decisions is the New York Giants. Both quarterback Daniel Jones and running back Saquon Barkley are in line for multi-year extensions.

The Giants, coming off a surprising 9-7-1 season where first-year head coach Brian Daboll led the franchise to their first playoff win since 2011, is in a tough spot. New York enters the offseason with the fourth-most cap space before restructures and veteran cuts, but Jones alone could eat into more than half their $46.9 million of space. Paying another significant chunk to Barkley can significantly limit what the team can do this offseason.

We’re diving into potential landing spots for Barkley if the Giants either franchise tag and trade Barkley or allow the back to walk in free agency. Though there are nine teams with at least $14 million in cap space, not every team needs a running back. Nevertheless, we could see some surprise suitors emerge after cuts.

Saquon Barkley’s Contract Value

Barkley re-established himself as an elite back in 2022 after injuries limited his availability and explosiveness in 2020 and 2021. He played 15 games over those two years, producing only 627 rushing yards, 323 receiving yards, and four total touchdowns. The Giants picked up his fifth-year option as a mere flier to see if he’d regain his pre-injury form.

It’s safe to say that he cashed in on the opportunity. Between his body bouncing back and the addition of Daboll, Barkley was a true workhorse who should’ve earned MVP consideration. He was the star of an offense that lacked star talent at quarterback and receiver.

MORE: Running Back Free Agency Rankings 2023

With 352 touches for 1,650 yards and 10 touchdowns, Barkley is clearly a top-five back again. He just turned 26 years old, and it’s fair to project even better efficiency if he plays with a more talented surrounding cast.

Fox Sports’ Ralph Vacchiano reported the Giants offered their lead back $12 million a year during the season, but Barkley is seeking closer to top-of-the-market money at $16 million a year. It was encouraging that Barkley said he’s “realistic” about his pay and isn’t necessarily trying to reset the RB market.

Teams can get creative to help lower that cap hit in Year 1, giving cap-strapped teams the viability to compete for Barkley.

5 Teams That Should Trade for or Sign Saquon Barkley

Chicago Bears

It’s hard not to speculate about the Bears being involved in every top free agent. They have almost $100 million in open space and an awful roster. Their best offensive playmaker besides quarterback Justin Fields is running back David Montgomery, who is also a free agent. Swapping out Montgomery for Barkley would be a no-brainer in terms of talent.

Chicago’s run-heavy approach could lead to massive numbers for Barkley while also helping Fields reach his peak as a passer. The Bears finished 2022 with the most rushing yards and highest yards per carry, largely thanks to Fields’ historic rushing season. But they have to take pressure off their third-year QB as soon as possible before he gets hurt or stalls in development.

Barkley’s addition as a pass catcher is notable for the offense as well. The Bears can also handle the biggest cap hits of Barkley’s contract upfront, a unique advantage few teams can offer. That means they could theoretically offer a front-loaded deal with an early out after Barkley turns 28 and is more likely to decline.

Atlanta Falcons

The only team with more rushing attempts than Chicago in 2022 was Atlanta. They also boast the second-most cap space in the league and are without a star rusher. For as well as rookie Tyler Allgeier played, Barkley can be a lure for a star QB as well.

The stars need to align for Barkley to pair with a veteran passer like Lamar Jackson or Geno Smith. Otherwise, Atlanta would be spending heavily at a position they squeezed great production out of with Allgeier, a 31-year-old Cordarrelle Patterson, and Caleb Huntley.

MORE: Lamar Jackson Landing Spots — Who Could Trade for the Star QB?

It’s justifiable because the franchise needs a jolt of star power. If they don’t trade for a quarterback, they’ll likely consider drafting one in Round 1.

But it’s fair to say Atlanta should also steer clear of investing in a player who is more of a luxury than a need. Still, there’s a possibility that pairing Barkley and Jackson with top-of-the-market deals is attractive enough for each to team up in Atlanta.

Washington Commanders

Washington can be this offseason’s sneaky candidate for a big-time move. The Commanders will have more than $30 million in cap room after they cut Carson Wentz, and their only notable free agent is defensive tackle Daron Payne. They can easily carve up to $40 million in space even after franchise tagging Payne.

Adding Barkley to an offense with two decent but forgettable backs in Brian Robinson and Antonio Gibson would spark the unit’s effectiveness. Robinson managed only 3.9 yards per carry, and Gibson was at 3.7. Washington still needs to figure out who the quarterback is now and in the future, but if it’s Sam Howell, he’ll need help to succeed.

Barkley will help mask some of the offensive line issues and force defenses to respect his presence. He also fits Ron Rivera’s history of featuring a dominant back in his offense. Barkley’s presence would also help to ignore the team’s lack of quality interior blocking as being the bigger issue for their run-game woes. This wouldn’t be a bad fit for Barkley, but it would be another example of misidentifying the problem in Washington.

Detroit Lions

I don’t want to take anything away from Jamaal Williams’ NFL-leading 17 rushing touchdowns, his career high in rushing yards in 2022, or how D’Andre Swift averaged an absurd 5.5 yards per carry. But neither compare to Barkley in terms of talent or effectiveness.

With Williams slated to hit free agency and Swift again missing a significant portion of games throughout 2022, the Lions can swing big at running back this offseason. Barkley can maximize the spacing that Detroit’s offensive coordinator Ben Johnson creates with his scheme and also further enhances one of the league’s best offensive lines.

Detroit has to consider such a massive upgrade in talent because they have the rare opportunity to further build on a strength. The Lions have a ton of cap flexibility, and only DJ Chark is a notable free agent.

Restructures and likely cuts can push them to more than $50 million in cap space, easily justifying a deal with Barkley to maximize their ability to win now. It would also cross out any chance the Lions use one of their two first-round picks on either Bijan Robinson or Jahmyr Gibbs.

Miami Dolphins

Miami feels like a lurker when it comes to chasing more big names to add to their roster.

The Dolphins can quickly gain gobs of cap space with restructures to their best players and a June 1 release of cornerback Byron Jones. Having quarterback Tua Tagovailoa on his rookie deal would allow one more offseason of spending before buckling down. With Barkley possibly open to taking less than the top deal possible, Miami can be a suitor.

MORE: Top 100 NFL Free Agents in 2023

The Dolphins’ rushing game was effective when head coach Mike McDaniel didn’t forget to use it in 2022. Giving him Barkley would help keep the offense from becoming too pass-happy. The gap from Barkley to Raheem Mostert and Jeff Wilson Jr. — two free agents — is incredibly large. I think the impact would be as significant as it was for San Francisco to land Christian McCaffrey mid-season last year.

Signing Barkley would cost some opportunities to upgrade the roster elsewhere. Nevertheless, Miami has to lean all-in for the offense with Patrick Mahomes, Josh Allen, and Joe Burrow always looming. Adding Vic Fangio to boost their defense might be a notable enough upgrade to put that side of the ball on the back burner.

Listen to the PFN Inside Access Podcast!

Listen to the PFN Inside Access Podcast! Click the embedded player below to listen, or you can find the PFN Fantasy Podcast on iTunes, Spotify, and all major podcast platforms.  Be sure to subscribe and leave us a five-star review!

Related Articles