Latest ‘Hard Knocks’ episode reveals Giants’ plans for Saquon Barkley’s free agency

New York Giants running back Saquon Barkley (26) reacts after running the ball against Houston Texans linebacker Christian Kirksey (58) during the fourth quarter at MetLife Stadium
Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Giants lost star running back Saquon Barkley to their division rival Philadelphia Eagles in free agency. The move was met with a lot of criticism as many felt that the 27-year-old backstabbed an organization that wanted to turn him into a franchise legend.

HBO’s Hard Knocks gives a behind-the-scenes look at the Giants’ negotiations with Saquon Barkley

nfl: combine, joe schoen, new york giants
Credit: Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

It turns out that the Giants tried to convince him to return, but were also prepared to move on. In the latest episode of HBO’s offseason edition of the NFL reality series “Hard Knocks”, a phone conversation between Giants general manager Joe Schoen and Barkley at the start of the offseason was captured, revealing that Schoen allowed Barkley to see his worth through the open market.

“Just mulling over this, the right thing to do is let you test the market to see what your value is. I don’t want to do the franchise [tag] thing or all that stuff again. I don’t want to go through that. We’ve both been through that. If you really want to be a Giant for life and you’re interested in coming back, see what your market is and have [agent] Ed [Berry] come back to us and we’ll see if we can come to an agreement,” Schoen told Barkley (h/t ESPN).

Barkley then would tell Schoen “I already told you where I want to be” when asked if he would consider “circling back” and give the Giants a chance to offer him a favorable deal before testing the waters of free agency. The star running back would later use that granted opportunity to sign a three-year deal with the rival Eagles that includes $26 million guaranteed.

The Giants were prepared to let Barkley walk in free agency

Saquon Barkley, Eagles, Giants
Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Evidenced by their lack of desire to franchise tag him again, the Giants were clearly ready to pivot in a different direction rather than handcuff themselves financially by signing a running back to a lucrative deal. In the first episode of the series, Schoen noted that the four-year, $160 million contract that quarterback Daniel Jones is currently playing with was a big factor in the decision to let Barkley field other offers.

“You’re paying [Daniel Jones] 40 million dollars,” said Schoen. “It’s not to hand the ball off to a 12 million dollar running back.”

Barkley’s negotiations with the Giants date back to the Dave Gettleman regime. Team owner John Mara stated back in 2021 that injury troubles were making them hesitant to offer him a large extension prior to his rookie contract expiring (h/t The New York Post). After Schoen’s first season as Giants’ GM, the two sides struggled to agree on a long-term extension which led to him being hit with the franchise tag for last season.

Barkley showcased his market value with the Giants last season

New York Giants running back Saquon Barkley (26) heads to the goal line in the second quarter past Philadelphia Eagles linebacker Nolan Smith
Credit: Kevin R. Wexler / USA TODAY NETWORK

2023 was a disappointing season for the Giants, as they finished 6-11 and missed the playoffs after reaching the playoffs with a 9-7-1 record the year before. However, it was a year in which Barkley was able to demonstrate his worth, as he essentially carried the Giants’ offense throughout the second half of the season after Jones suffered a torn ACL that ended his campaign early.

Therefore, it is not surprising that Barkley left New York for a larger paycheck, especially considering the increased tension surrounding star running backs wanting to get paid more money for their services. The Giants fallback option to replace the loss of Barkley was signing veteran running back Devin Singletary to a three-year, $16 million contract, and they will hope he can provide solid production in New York’s backfield this season and beyond. Singletary had career-highs in rushing attempts (216) and rushing yards (898) last season with the Houston Texans and scored four rushing touchdowns.

It remains to be seen how much of a chance Barkley gave the Giants to retain him, but so far the series has highlighted the challenges they endured dealing with the situation and how they navigated through the tough decision-making.

Mentioned in this article:

More about: