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July 18, 2023

A peek around at the rest of the NFC East: Saquon Barkley likely to stay away from the Giants for a while

Jimmy takes a peek around at the rest of the NFC East.

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071723SaquonBarkley Bill Streicher/USA TODAY Sports

Saquon Barkley

All three of the Philadelphia Eagles' NFC East rivals had newsworthy days on Monday. So, let's cover what's up with the New York Giants, Dallas Cowboys, and Washington Commanders.


Saquon Barkley and the Giants did not come to an agreement on a long-term contract

A rift has been growing all offseason between the Giants and Barkley, who was scheduled to become a free agent this offseason but was instead slapped with the franchise tag. We detailed the situation in timeline form in our Giants dumpster fire post a few weeks ago, which we'll repost here to save you the click.

• April 26, 2018: Former GM Dave Gettleman and the Giants made the insane decision to select Barkley with the second overall pick in 2018 NFL Draft. He then mocked computer nerds far and wide for their egghead theories on why drafting a running back so highly is a poor use of resources:

Gettleman valued running backs, maybe more than any GM of the last 20 years. It appears the new regime does not, but a lot more on that in a moment.

• The 2018 season: Barkley accumulates over 2,000 yards from scrimmage and 15 TDs as a rookie, and defenders of the Barkley pick briefly have their moment in the sun.

• The 2019 and 2020 seasons: Barkley's production falls off substantially in his second season, and he tears his ACL in his third season, causing him to miss 14 games. 

• The 2021 offseason: The Giants exercise Barkley's fifth-year option for the 2022 season, which will pay him about $7.2 million.

• 2021 season: Barkley returns to the football field, but is mostly ineffective, averaging just 3.7 yards per carry, albeit on an awful team.

• 2022 season: The Giants get out to an unexpected 7-2 start, and Barkley is a big reason why. During the first half of the season, the Giants are putting a lot of mileage on him, as he has carried 198 times for 931 yards (4.7 YPC) and 6 TDs though the first nine games. He is on pace for over 2,000 yards from scrimmage. In Week 9, Barkley carries 35 times for 152 yards. But, he looks like the player he once was.

The over-usage may have caught up with Barkley and the Giants, as he is less effective thereafter. From that point on, the Giants finish out the rest of the season with a 2-5-1 record, and eke their way into the postseason. Barkley ends up finishing with 1,650 yards from scrimmage and 10 TDs. He still makes the Pro Bowl and finishes third in NFL Comeback Player of the Year voting.

It is later reported by Bob Brookover of that the Giants offered Barkley "a multi-year deal worth $12.5 million a season at the bye week (basically the height of Barkley's season), then increased that number to $13 million with a chance to get to $14 million in incentives shortly after the season."

• March 7: The Giants sign Daniel Jones to his four-year extension worth $160 million.

• Also March 7: The Giants place the franchise tag on Barkley, which, if signed, will pay him $10,091,000 for the 2023 season, or about 1/4 of the average annual value of Jones' deal.

• March 27: Joe Schoen tells reporters at the NFL owners meetings that the Giants pulled their previous offers. Via the Giants' website:

"There's no outstanding offer right now," Schoen said. "Once we put the franchise tag on him, we stepped back. We knew that throughout the negotiation that if there was a time that we can't come to an agreement, we're going to go to the franchise tag. And that's what we did.

"Essentially when you're building a team, and I'll say this to everybody, there's 53 players. You can't look at everybody in a silo. As you're going through negotiations and you can't come to an agreement on what the value of a player is, then you have to shift to plan B. And we knew we had the franchise tag as a tool. And we'll utilize that - see if anything happens down the road."

Why would Schoen pull the Giants' offer to Barkley? From what I'm piecing together, it seems there was a better (but still unappealing) offer on the table that the Giants hoped to entice Barkley with so they could slap the tag on Jones instead. Once the Giants got the deal done with Jones, they tagged Barkley and were no longer willing to go back to their original offer to him. They instead wished to start from scratch on long-term negotiations or just have Barkley play on the tag. Of course, to expect a player and his representation to go backwards in negotiations is laughable. The reality is that the Giants probably had very little desire to give Barkley a long-term deal at all.

• April 17Pat Leonard of the New York Daily News reports that Barkley is "seeking Christian McCaffrey money ($16 million)."

• June 12: At his football camp for kids, Barkley calls reporting of the Giants' contract offers "misleading," and implies that the Giants leaked them. He adds, "I'm not trying to set the running back market. For those reports to come out and try to make me look like I'm greedy or whatever, that's not even close to being the truth."

When asked if he would sit out the season rather than play on the tag, Barkley says, "We got until July 17th, right? I guess I'll make those decisions or start thinking about that when July 17th comes." Barkley seems to get emotional near the end of his interview session at the camp when asked about the running back market as a whole:

July 17: This was the deadline for any franchise-tagged player to sign a multiyear contract or extension. After this date, Barkley can sign only a one-year contract with the Giants for the 2023 season, whether that's for the franchise tag amount or some other amount of money. Both sides came close, but couldn't bridge a gap of around $2 million per year, per Ryan Dunleavy of the New York Post.

Lol. With this date passing, there can be no multi-year contracts signed by Barkley until after the Giants' last regular season game.

Future date of importance:

• November 14: Deadline for teams to sign their unsigned franchise-tagged players. If Barkley is still unsigned after this date, he is prohibited from playing in the NFL in 2023.

So what's next

The Giants shouldn't expect Barkley to show up anytime soon. In fact, until he signs the tag, he's not under contract (duh) and thus isn't really even on the team. He wouldn't be allowed to show up. Some will call it a "holdout," which paints the picture of a selfish jerk who is not honoring his contract. To be clear though, it's not a holdout. Barkley won't face any fines and will be well within his rights not to sign a contract he does not agree with. He will only start missing out on chunks of the $10.1 million if he hasn't signed the franchise tag contract by the time real games begin.

While this new Giants front office is correct in its assessment that tying up heavy resources in running backs isn't a great idea, it is also true that they don't have much talent at the skill positions aside from Barkley and almost certainly wouldn't have made the playoffs for the first time in six seasons if Barkley weren't on the team last season. They chose to play hardball with one of the most well-liked, well-respected players on the team, and it will be fascinating to see if it backfires and to what degree.

Should Barkley exercise his right not to sign a crappy franchise tag and stay away from training camp, his absence will be the story of the Giants' summer. There will be daily questions that the coaching staff and Barkley's teammates will have to answer, and it will get old fast. It's certainly possible that the Giants could offer incentives to get Barkley into camp sooner, such as bumping his pay from $10.1 million to something a little higher or forfeiting their right to tag him again in 2024, but that seems unlikely given the way the Giants have wielded their leverage over Barkley all offseason with an iron fist.

Where it will really begin to backfire in a major way is if Barkley is angry enough to miss games, a possibility that has largely been discounted, but maybe shouldn't be. If he misses games, the Giants' backup running backs are Matt Breida, rookie fifth-round pick Eric Gray, and Gary Brightwell. In a word... yuck.

Here are the Giants' first six opponents, by the way:

Week Opponent 2022 record 
Cowboys 12-5 
At Cardinals 4-13 
At 49ers 13-4 
Seahawks 9-8 
At Dolphins 9-8 
At Bills 13-3 
TOTAL  60-41 (0.594) 

Five of those opponents went to the playoffs in 2022. An already tough start to the season will be all the more difficult if Barkley isn't playing. It has been widely stated that "Barkley has no leverage." That is nonsense. His absence could theoretically wreck the Giants' season.

If I were a Giants fan, I'd prefer to be excited about building on the first positive season in over a half decade, not fretting over the repercussions of a contract squabble (over a relatively small amount of money, at that). Bad vibes to start their season.


RB Tony Pollard and the Cowboys did not come to an agreement on a long-term contract

The Giants weren't the only team in the NFC East to franchise tag a running back. The Cowboys tagged Pollard, who has been a better player than Ezekiel Elliott for years, and will finally get a chance to be the lead back in Dallas. Unlike Barkley, Pollard was happy to sign his tag in March, and there are no animus feelings between the two sides.

Pollard will be a free agent next offseason, along with a whole lot of other starters like LT Tyron Smith, RT Terence Steele, C Tyler Biadasz, CB Trevon Diggs, CB Stephon Gilmore, and S Jayron Kearse, as well as other important role players like DE Dorance Armstrong, Edge Dante Fowler, and S Malik Hooker.


The sale of the Commanders from Dan Snyder to Josh Harris is one step closer

From Mark Maske and Nicki Jhabvala of The Washington Post

The NFL finance committee met remotely Monday and voted informally to recommend approval of Josh Harris’s $6.05 billion deal to purchase the Washington Commanders from Daniel Snyder, according to two people familiar with the deliberations.

Attorneys for the NFL and Snyder also have reached an agreement resolving the final remaining legal issues that had threatened to complicate the approval and closing of the deal, those people said. That clears the way for NFL team owners to vote to ratify the record-setting sale during a meeting scheduled for Thursday in Minneapolis.

So, the Commanders will go from the worst owner in NFL history to just a "regular bad" owner in Harris. 🥂🎉

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