NFL free agency doesn't officially begin for another two months, but that hasn't stopped New York Giants fans from discussing Saquon Barkley's future. The veteran running back has become a fan favorite over the last six seasons, but his future with the Giants is up in the air due to his desire for a major free agency payday this offseason.
It's understandable why Barkley wants to get paid, even if it means leaving New York. He wanted a big contract last offseason but was franchise-tagged instead. He also turns 27 years old in a few weeks, which is around the age where running backs begin to see fewer contract offers and the ones that they do receive won't typically break the bank.
But regardless of what he thinks he deserves, Barkley just might be delusional about his free agency plans based on his latest soundbites.
Giants News: Saquon Barkley's Free Agency Plans are Delusional
In an interview earlier this week with USA TODAY Sports’ Mackenzie Salmon, Barkley mentioned how winning a Super Bowl is still one of his main goals as he prepares to test free agency this spring. That's fine and dandy seeing as how most players dream of hoisting the Lombardi Trophy one day, however, that goal does clash with Barkley's big paycheck desires.
It's just incredibly tough to imagine a Super Bowl contender shelling out big bucks for a veteran running back. That's not to say that Barkley isn't elite and doesn't deserve to be paid for what he brings to the table. but the truth is that those teams just won't throw out that type of money for one rusher when they can use it to improve multiple areas on the roster.
Barkley Might Be Asking for Too Much Money
It's just hard to imagine what type of money Barkley thinks he's capable of receiving. Even though he was playing on the franchise tag during the 2023 campaign, his $10.09 million cap hit was still tied for the fourth-highest among running backs.
As it stands, five running backs will carry a higher cap hit than that during the 2024 season, per Spotrac: Alvin Kamara ($18.87 million), Aaron Jones ($17.57 million), Nick Chubb ($15.82 million), Christian McCaffrey ($14.14 million), and Jonathan Taylor ($10.66 million). Of those RBs, McCaffrey is the only one playing for a legitimate Super Bowl contender.
You can make the argument that Barkley is as good as some of the RBs on that list, but chances are a competent general manager can successfully debate why he doesn't deserve that type of scratch. On top of his age being a factor, it can be argued that a long-term, big-money deal isn't worth the risk given that Barkley's injury history has held him out of 25 games since the beginning of the 2019 NFL season.
Barkley has also only been healthy enough to hit the 1,000-yard mark once over the last four seasons. If you want to get even more in-depth, 17 RBs have racked up more rushing yards than Barkley since the start of 2020 with the majority of those players making less money than him.
Barkley Must Choose What Matters More to Him in Free Agency
Barkley must figure out which he values more: winning a Super Bowl or getting paid.
If he opts for championship glory, chances are he'll need to accept less money. Super Bowl contenders know how to build a roster, which means they can't (more often than not) tie up a large chunk of their salary cap to an RB with a lengthy injury history. It just isn't a realistic expectation, especially with the current landscape regarding rushers.
But if he chooses that money is more important, he might have to put his championship goals on hold for the time being. According to Spotrac, six of the 10 teams with the most salary cap space this offseason didn't make this year's playoffs.
As for the four teams that did qualify for the postseason, each of them — Texans, Lions, Buccaneers, and Rams — already have younger, cheaper RBs who they likely wouldn't be willing to replace with Barkley.
At the end of the day, Giants fans just want the best for Barkley. While some fans would love to see him get paid in New York, others would be happy to see him win a Super Bowl.
He just must remember that he likely can't have his cake and eat it too.
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