Why Giants must be careful about Saquon Barkley contract extension

Barkley, whose contract is up at the end of the season, is an elite talent but plays a position at which players are easily replaced. If he comes back to New York on a long-term extension, will the Giants get their money’s worth?

After rushing for 152 yards on a career-high 35 carries against the Texans in Week 10, Barkley has struggled. He has a combined 124 rushing yards in three games since, averaging just over 2.8 yards per carry. Was the workload too much for the 25-year-old, or did he re-aggravate the shoulder injury he suffered in Week 5

Giants GM Joe Schoen said he wants to bring Barkley back. The two sides recently talked about an extension, per the New York Daily News. 

Would it be wise for a team that’s looking to build its roster for the future to use significant cap space on a running back?

Headlining a loaded free-agent running back class, Barkley will aim for a deal that pays similarly to the four-year, $64 million extension signed by Christian McCaffrey in 2020. 

There is little debate that Barkley is the Giants’ best player, but running back extensions tend to age poorly. The teams that pay a premium for RBs do not typically hoist the Lombardi Trophy. 

Given Barkley’s recent play and injury history, perhaps New York uses its franchise tag on him. This would pay him a projected $12.6 million for one year. While it would be a good number for the Giants, there is no telling whether Barkley would sign the franchise tag. He can hold out if that is the case, though that would be unlikely and the tactic worked out poorly for Le’Veon Bell. 

As a player who is part of changing the New York culture, Barkley will probably receive a multi-year deal from the team. 

If Barkley does return, through either an extension or the franchise tag, New York should put him in a position in which he carries a smaller load. 

Defenses will continue to stack the box against Barkley because they do not believe the Giants’ other playmakers can beat them. Adding a difference-maker at wide receiver to open up the offense, whether in the draft or through trade, must be a top priority for Schoen. 

The offensive line also must be retooled. The Giants hope rookie Evan Neal’s growth follows a similar path to Andrew Thomas, who ranks among the NFL’s best left tackles. Outside of Thomas, the Giants’ offensive line has been abysmal. 

If next year’s offensive line performs as it has this season, it would be a waste spending huge money on any running back, let alone Barkley. 

For Barkley’s sake as well as the team’s, the Giants must create a better environment for him to thrive and he must stay healthy. 

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