Saquon Barkley: Are the New York Giants Risk Wasting the Running Back’s Career?

The New York Giants took Penn State running back Saquon Barkley second overall in the 2018 NFL Draft. This was the first draft pick made by former Carolina Panthers general manager Dave Gettleman and his new crew as the new Giants general manager.

This move triggered the narrative that the Giants were not ready to move on from veteran quarterback Eli Manning and that he was still in his prime. 

The Giants failed to impress that season with a win-now momentum but underachieved at 5-11. With the trades made midseason of 2018, the Giants signaled it was time to start building for the future. The Giants selected Eli’s successor, Daniel Jones, with the sixth pick in the 2019 NFL Draft.

In 2019, the Giants were one of the worst teams in the league. The coaches failed to make adjustments throughout the game and did not handle training rookies well. Barkley got injured during 2019 and did not perform like his 2018 campaign. 

Eli retired and Jones is deemed the quarterback of the future. But what about Barkley? What is his status going into 2020 and beyond?

Saquon Barkley Coming Into 2020

Saquon Barkley is coming off an injury-busted season, in which he ran behind another trainwreck offensive line in 2019. He still reached over 1,000 yards rushing but regressed (like much of the 2018 Giants’ draft class) after he came back from injury.

He was originally supposed to be out four to eight weeks, but he returned in four. A lot of speculation said that the Giants rushed him back when they were going nowhere fast with a bunch of young rookies.

Barkley did not seem like himself after he came back from his high ankle sprain. It took a couple of games for him to get back to his old self.

Barkley compiled 393 rushing yards in the last three games of 2019 season against the Miami Dolphins, Washington Redskins, and Philadelphia Eagles.

Fast forward to now. Barkley has a new coaching staff and is entering year number three. Though the Giants added free agents like James Bradberry, Blake Martinez, and Kyler Fackrell, this team is not ready to compete for the playoffs just yet.

Joe Judge and his new coaching staff have to prove themselves as worthy pieces for the future. The secondary needs to take a huge step forward and one more thing. With the selections of Andrew Thomas, Matt Peart, and Shane Lemieux, the Giants’ offensive line needs to improve.

The point is a running back’s career is about six to seven years and Saquon is entering year number three. If the Giants do not win soon, Saquon will only be boosting stats for himself and not for winning purposes. The Giants would have wasted the second overall pick.

But if he proves he is durable and proves to be apart of the Giants future, he will need an extension and for a running back of his caliber, it won’t be cheap.

Market for Running Backs

Ezekiel Elliott and Christian McCaffrey got extensions for $15 million and $16 million per year. It is a matter of time before the Titans extend Derrick Henry and make him the highest-paid running back. Henry, McCaffrey, and Elliott are among the league’s best in the backfield.

With Barkley’s ability to run the ball (if he is healthy), he will not keep extension talks cheap. He will likely ask to be the highest-paid running back at the time his talks begin. But there is a problem with that for the Giants.

If the Giants’ is a winning team at that time, whoever is the general manager will have to prioritize their cap space wisely. Depending on their play, the Giants will likely have free agents to extend and also draft picks.

If the Giants can’t find the money to pay Saquon Barkley as a top running back, they would have to let him walk or trade him. Either way, they would get something in return.

The Mara family would be embarrassed to do that though. Gettleman would likely be out of a job at that time or even be fired depending on this situation.

Not extending your valued franchise possession because of the lack of money in seasons you did or did not win with him would be an organizational hiccup.

After all, Barkley was Gettleman’s first pick as Giants’ general manager, directed by the Mara family to save Eli’s career.

What Does the Future Hold?

The Giants have two concerns facing them: Barkley’s durability and his asking price on his pending extension.

They need to win with Saquon Barkley in the backfield to prove they did not waste a pick on him and if they win, they will have to give him a big payday.

If the Giants don’t prioritize his payday in time or do not have the cap to keep him, he will simply walk or be traded by the Giants.

Even though the Giants could get something valuable for him, he will be a wasted first-round pick for the Giants, especially if they had not won with him in the backfield in his prime.

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