With training camp set to kick off later today, NFL running back Saquon Barkley ended his holdout and agreed to a one-year deal with the New York Giants that includes $10.1 million fully guaranteed (exactly what the former Penn State star would have received had he signed his franchise tag tender) and the opportunity for the 26-year-old to earn an additional $900,000 if he totals 1,300 rushing yards, 11 touchdowns and 65 receptions. The deal, which also includes a $2 million signing bonus, does not include language that would prevent the Giants from placing the franchise tag on Barkley again in 2024.
While the deal is technically a win for Barkley and his camp because he can now make more than $10.1 million, it is not the massive victory some had been hoping for and does not reset a free-agent market that many believe is unfair to NFL running backs. If Barkley hits his incentive and receives the full $11 million, he’ll be the fifth highest-paid back in the league behind San Francisco’s Christian McCaffrey ($16 million) New Orleans’ Alvin Kamara ($15 million), Tennessee’s Derrick Henry ($12.5 million) and Cleveland’s Nick Chubb ($12.2 million). However, he’ll also have to stay healthy and productive and is not guaranteed any money from the Giants beyond this season. The Giants and Barkley also cannot discuss a new contract again until the end of this season.
Outrage Over Market for NFL Running Backs Is Totally MisplacedNFL teams won’t give running backs lucrative long-term contracts. They shouldn’t.
Barkley, who turned down several long-term contract offers from the Giants before starting his holdout earlier this month, was in danger of missing New York’s season-opener against the Cowboys on September 10. Now, he’ll almost certainly be on the field with his teammates when the G-Men take on Dallas to start the season.
The opening of the season is much more in doubt for other top backs including Josh Jacobs, Ezekiel Elliott, Dalvin Cook, Leonard Fournette and Kareem Hunt, all of whom remain unsigned. Given that Barkley had been texting and Zooming with his peers about the state of the running back position, it’s possible Jacobs, Elliott, Cook, Fournette or Hunt may have some ill will toward Barkley for ending his holdout and taking what amounts to the franchise-tag deal. That feeling would be misplaced because, like it or not, teams, not players, hold almost all of the cards during contract negotiations. The Giants could get by without Barkley. Barkley, if he wanted to get paid, could not have gotten by without the Giants.
Now, with Barkley’s holdout over and a deal in place, both sides can move forward — before the exact same situation plays out prior to next season when the Giants place the franchise tag on their star running back again. At least when that happens, Barkley will have a minimum of $10.1 million in the bank to rely on if he opts to holdout.