Giants have big decision to make on Saquon Barkley: Save the money or let him play

New York Giants, Saquon Barkley

The New York Giants have some big decisions to make regarding leftover pieces from the Dave Gettleman regimen, specifically running back Saquon Barkley. As one of the more polarizing players on the team, Barkley is still fighting his way back from a completely restructured knee, struggling to regain footing during the 2021 season.

A poor offensive line and scheme didn’t help Barkley return to his former self, but the hiring of Brian Daboll and Joe Schoen should promote a better unit entirely. A rebuilt offensive line, strength-based scheme, and modernized play-calling all aid in the potential of Barkley, but how much value does he really hold on his 5th-year option?

Before his rookie deal expires, Barkley has one final season, preparing to earn $7.2 million. The Giants could look for a trade partner to unload his salary and invest elsewhere, but it would leave a newly opened void at running back. The Giants have Devontae Booker and Gary Brightwell on the roster, but they don’t fit Daboll’s mold of versatile back who also serve as competent pass-catchers. Booker showed flashes of quality last season, so keeping him around isn’t the worst idea at a $3.1 million. The Giants can cut him and save $2.1 million, a healthy amount.

Joe Schoen has already had conversations with Barkley, remaining steadfast in his quality, but did mention the team would have to make tough decisions to add cap space.

“He was in the locker room yesterday, so I got to have a good conversation with him,” Schoen said, via SNY.tv. “I’m excited about Saquon. When he came out, he was a rare talent. I know he’s had some injuries, and that comes with that position. We talked a little bit about where we may need to upgrade. I think if you upgrade the offensive line, that’s gonna help Daniel [Jones]and it’s gonna help Saquon.”

Saving $7.2 million is significant when the team currently lies $12 million ‘under’ the cap. Schoen is looking to clear $40 million — saving from Barkley could pay for the entire rookie class this off-season.

“First off, we have to get underneath [the cap], we have to make some tough decisions here in the near future just to get in a place where we can sign draft picks and be below the cap,’’ Schoen said. “There’s a fine line, because you can’t purge.’’

Based on positional value, there’s a tiny, minuscule chance the Giants extend Barkley beyond this season, given his injury history. With that being the case, an argument could be made that trading Barkley now would add draft capital and funds toward the rebuild, but losing him may hurt the team’s chance at winning games next season.

From a pure business perspective, trading Barkley is the most efficient move and will offer the most return (under the assumption he’s likely gone after this season). In terms of winning games and being competitive, the offensive staff is likely excited to build a scheme that focuses on his strengths.

From my perspective, the Giants are better off keeping Barkley around for one simple reason: the draft capital they get back will be minimal at best. His contract will expire after the 2022 season anyway.

Maybe, the Giants can extract his best self and look to move him at the deadline for 2023 Draft capital.