There is an old adage that holds “deadlines make deals.”
Unfortunately for Saquon Barkley and the New York Giants, that adage failed to come true on Monday. Now, the organization is facing the prospect of opening the 2023 season without their star running back in the backfield.
Under the NFL’s Collective Bargaining Agreement the deadline for teams to reach contract extensions with players under the franchise tag expired at 4:00 p.m. Eastern on Monday afternoon. Now that the deadline has passed, the parties are not allowed to revisit talks on a new deal until the end of the 2023 season.
So now that the deadline has come and gone without a deal, what happens next?
Well, there is a chance this lingers into training camp, and beyond.
Barkley has reportedly made it clear that playing under the tag is “undesirable,” and that same previous reporting made it clear that sitting out not just for training camp, but Week 1 against the Dallas Cowboys, was on the table.
Now that the deadline has passed without an extension, that threat likely remains on the table. However, that threat comes with financial implications for Barkley. For each game he misses, he forfeits 1/17th of the salary cap number ($10.091 million) for running backs this season. That means each game he misses, he is out nearly $594,000.
If the situation were to linger past Week 10, Barkley would be unable to play at all this season.
Further, if Barkley does sit out the 2023 season, it remains to be seen if the Giants would use the franchise tag for the 2024 campaign. Consider this from Art Stapleton, who covers the Giants for NorthJersey.com:
And this has to be on the table: if Barkley doesn’t sign a long-term deal, there are no guarantees he is tagged in 2024. The Giants can prepare as such with flexibility to commit to building this offense without him. They want him here, but their approach to 2024 can be different.
The Giants just shelled out more than $240 million in contracts to two of their best players at premium positions in Daniel Jones and Dexter Lawrence. They’re going to eventually spend big on Andrew Thomas, potentially resetting the market at offensive tackle. The negotiation with Barkley because of the market, the position and the tag is not representative of the Giants being accused of not taking care of their own.
Barkley was a massive part of the Giants’ offense this past season, both on the ground and in the air. Not only did he rush for 1,312 yards and ten touchdowns, but he led the Giants in targets in the passing game with 76, catching 57 of those for another 338 yards.
Barkley was not the only running back to reach Monday’s deadline without a deal. Both Josh Jacobs of the Las Vegas Raiders and Tony Pollard of the Dallas Cowboys are in the exact same situation: Facing the franchise tag without a new deal in place.
The NFL has dramatically shifted its view of running backs over the past few years. Currently, the only position paid less than running backs under the franchise tag? Special teams players. Because of the emphasis on the passing game, the injury history of running backs, and the act that the ground game can be dependent on other aspects such as scheme and offensive line performance, teams have altered their view of the position, and its value.
However, Barkley poses an interesting case, given what he offers in the passing game. Still, it seems it was not enough to get the sides to come to terms on a new contract.
Now all those teams can do is wait to see when — or, if — those running backs report to camp.