The New York Giants are facing their most important offseason in quite some time. They are coming off a disappointing 6-11 season, a year after making an appearance in the divisional round. Armed with three picks in the top 50, the Giants have an opportunity to acquire immediate starters. Could they get their franchise Quarterback? Draft a Wide Receiver? Perhaps they pull a surprise and draft a Tight End? The Giants have a lot of work to do regarding this offense.
A franchise-altering decision looms large for the Giants this offseason. Pro Bowl Running Back and fan favorite, Saquon Barkley’s contract situation is up for discussion again. Last season, there was a stand-off between Barkley and the Giants front office regarding the correct value. On one hand, Barkley felt he deserved to be paid like a top-five running back. On the other, General Manager Joe Schoen has made it clear that the market value does not agree with paying the running back position.
One thing the Giants have in their back pocket for the second straight year, is the franchise tag. Barkley has made it clear that he prefers not to play on the franchise tag. Is this year any different than last? Will there be another stalemate leading up to training camp? Or should the Giants let their leader and face of the franchise test the free-agent market? Here are three running backs that can replace Barkley, if he doesn’t re-sign.
Three Running Backs That Can Replace Saquon Barkley This Offseason
Devin Singletary – Houston Texans/Free Agent
Joe Schoen was the assistant general manager with the Buffalo Bills when they used the 74th pick on Devin Singletary in the 2019 draft. After spending four years in Buffalo, Singletary signed a one-year FA contract with the Houston Texans last offseason. He had a career year in rushing attempts and rushing yards and took over as lead back later in the season. Replacing Barkley’s talent level and respect in the locker room is no easy task. He does, however, bring experience, and more importantly, better value from a contractual standpoint. According to Spotrac.com, Singletary’s market value is listed at $5.3 million dollars. Compare that to the franchise tag projected value of $11.3 million, and the savings look a lot better if the Giants opt to go with Singletary.
Losing a talented franchise player like Barkley would hurt the fanbase and locker room tremendously. There is an opportunity for the Giants to restructure some contracts and create more cap space, thus leaving the door open for a potential agreement. By all accounts, both Barkley and Front Office want a reunion, albeit at a reasonable price for both sides. A contract similar to Cleveland Browns running back, Nick Chubb, is more than reasonable. At three years, 36 million dollars, they can keep Barkley up until his age 30 season, when the Giants hope to field a Super Bowl contender. The hope is that these discussions don’t drag out post-draft, and into training camp. It would be beneficial if both sides came to a mutual agreement rather quickly.
Bucky Irving – Oregon Ducks
If the Giants decide to spend their free agent money elsewhere besides the running back position, they can address the position via the NFL Draft. Bucky Irving, from the Oregon Ducks, would be a perfect fit. Even though he is a bit undersized at 5’10, Irving displays quick feet, solid vision, acceleration, and is a threat in the passing game. In three years at Oregon, he amassed 3722 yards from scrimmage and 25 total TDs. His 56 catches this past season ranked 1st amongst running backs in all of college football. His size may limit him from carving out a full-time roll, but his skill set translates to the modern NFL.
The Giants hired Joel Thomas, to be their running backs coach, the same title he held with the New Orleans Saints for the past nine years. Thomas was responsible for molding five-time Pro Bowl running back, Alvin Kamara. Kamara has made a living generating yards as a pass catching running back. Irving and Thomas can potentially offer the Giants offense another weapon that they so desperately need. If Irving is available in round 3 or round 4, the Giants shouldn’t hesitate to select him.
Eric Gray – New York Giants
Another option may already be in-house. Running Back Eric Gray was drafted last season by the Giants in the fifth round out of the University of Oklahoma. Although he had a minimal role, Gray does have an upside as a reliable three-down back. Also listed at 5’10, he brings a thicker frame that can get the tough yards when needed. He lacks the elusiveness and explosiveness that Barkley brings every week, but toughness and grit often outweigh finesse in important moments. If the Giants decide they want to expand Grays’s role, they would be wise to bring a veteran running back on a cheap deal to split carries. Gray might benefit from another year of seasoning by being the number two back behind Barkley or another veteran free agent.
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