The New York Giants have a decision on their hands — or do they? Big Blue has until May 3rd to decide whether or not to pick up the fifth-year option for star running back Saquon Barkley. Exercising the option would mean committing just north of $7.2 million to the oft-injured, yet wildly talented playmaker for the 2022 season. Considering that price point would serve as an approximate $3 million pay cut for Barkley, who holds a $10.1 million cap hit in 2021, proceeding with the option seems like a no-brainer for the organization.
However, the fifth-year option decision is just a prerequisite for a far more pivotal, franchise-altering decision that is hanging over both the team and Barkley’s head.
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Barkley Ranks Amongst ‘Most Likely’ NFL Holdouts
Three seasons into his pro career, Barkley is now eligible for a second contract. Earlier this offseason Giants co-owner John Mara sounded very much like a man prepped to hand the former No. 2 overall pick just that.
“Certainly expect him to be a Giant for a very long time,” Mara told reporters back in January. Mara and the team have since remained supportive of the back over recent months, but have also been adamant about their reluctance to rush into contract negotiations.
“I certainly think we’re not in any hurry to do that,” Mara stated in April while discussing looming contract talks with Barkley.
The uncertainty pertaining to Barkley’s future has led Bleacher Report’s Chris Roling to float the 24-year-old as a potential no-show this summer, ranking the running back second on his list NFL’s five most likely players to hold out of the 2021 season.
A star running back always seems to pop up in summer holdout discussions, and Saquon Barkley of the New York Giants should be next.
Barkley, the second pick in 2018, was one of the league’s most electric players at the devalued position until a torn ACL limited him to two games in 2020. Over the course of 31 games, he’s averaged 4.7 yards per carry with 17 scores and, in true workhorse fashion, also caught 149 passes with six more scores.
It will be interesting to see if Barkley settles for a longer-term deal for security purposes or if he aims for a market-resetting number. He’s talented enough to do so, and he could argue he’s a critical part of the equation for a team still trying to rebuild around Daniel Jones with head coach Joe Judge at the controls.
Giants Admit Barkley’s Health Will Play Key Role in Decision
By now we all know the storyline revolving around Barkley’s NFL career. The Penn State product burst onto the scene in 2018, taking home Offensive Rookie of the Year honors on the heels of leading the league in all-purpose yards (2,028). However, since then his career has been mostly ravaged by injury. Since 2019, Barkley has appeared in just 15 of 32 possible games and has combined for nearly 500 fewer yards from scrimmage than he mustered up in his rookie campaign alone.
While speaking with members of the media this past month, general manager Dave Gettleman was forthright with the fact that Barkley’s health will ultimately play a pivotal role in the team’s long-term outlook of their top playmaker.
“Well, I think that’s part of the discussion and obviously we’re going to have to make a decision in the spring on whether we pick up his fifth-year option or not,” Gettleman said. “You know, again, it comes back to that medical question. It’s unknown and what you have to do is get your trainer and your doctors involved and make your best decision.”
As for Barkley, who is currently rehabbing from a torn ACL suffered in Week 2 of the 2020 season, he’s simply focused on getting back to his pre-injury form.
“To be honest, that’s the least of my worries,” Barkley told Mike Florio during an appearance on PFT Live in February. “That’s not even on my mind right now to even have that conversation, spark that conversation up. I’m really just focusing on getting this knee ready because I want to be the best player I can be.”