Why Saquon Barkley Could Still Get His Big Pay Day Before Next Season
Right now, the last thing that should be on anyone’s mind following the devastating torn ACL suffered by running back Saquon Barkley is his next contract.
The third-year running back, who tore his ACL Sunday and who is awaiting the swelling to subside so he can have his knee repaired, had big goals for this season ripped away. He won't get the chance to show how dangerous his talents are in a Jason Garrett led offense, which has done wonders for the production of pas running backs.
He won’t even get a chance to answer the critics who questioned his pass blocking and whether he had what it took to be an every-down back (spoiler alert: he does).
That all will have to wait until 2021 at the earliest, assuming his comeback from this devastating injury is, if his Instagram account is to be believed, “one hell of a story.”
Another thing that might have to wait is the payday Barkley was no doubt hoping to get after this season.
History, though, would seem to favor Barkley. While every injury and every human body is different, Adrian Peterson proved that an NFL running back could not only come back strong from a torn ACL, which he suffered in 2011, they can be even better than before.
While everyone is different, there’s no denying that Barkley will be focused on much more than having a chance at next year’s NFL Comeback Player of the Year Honors.
But what about that contract?
Well, the Giants, under general manager Dave Gettleman, have a precedent in place for a situation like this. In 2017, the then-face of their franchise, receiver Odell Beckham Jr, broke his ankle four games into that campaign and missed the rest of the regular season.
At the time, Beckham was in his fourth league season and had already had the option year of his rookie deal picked up by the Giants. The team used the option year to retain the rights to Beckham’s services and evaluate the success of his off-season rehab through a controlled environment.
Ultimately, the Giants went ahead and signed Beckham to a lucrative multiyear contract even before he set foot on a playing field for a game, Beckham, having shown the Giants in a controlled environment that he was indeed fully recovered from his injury.
The team could follow the same path with Barkley, who although his injury is different than Beckham's, he shares a simialr circumstance.
Well, almost, as there are a few flies that could end up in this ointment.
For one, the Giants would no doubt want to see Barkley in person next spring. But with there being no signs of the current COVID-19 pandemic subsiding, will that be possible?
Given how successfully training camps were handled, there is some early hope for a "regular" off-season to come into play next spring, but there are no guarantees of that right now.
What about the salary cap, which, thanks to the pandemic, is projected to tumble to as low as $175 million in 2021? If a team wants to get a deal done badly enough, it will find the money. Certainly, you can expect the Giants will not only roll over whatever salary cap money they have left at the end of the year, but they’ll also be trimming a few bloated contracts from their books to create space.
Still, even then, there is only so much money to go around, and only so much that can be created to sign the next free-agent and draft classes.
Remember, quarterback Daniel Jones and Dexter Lawrence will be eligible for new contracts after the 2021 season. If the Giants wait to get Barkley signed to a new mega-deal, their first option is to follow the path they took with Beckham—see how Barkley looks and then see if a deal can be struck before the start of the 2021 season, as they did with Beckham’s contract, a deal finalized with about a week or so remaining of training camp.
The other option is to let Barkley’s contract play out, pick up the option year, and use the franchise tag on him for two seasons running. But again, given the long-term impact of the cap thanks to the pandemic—an impact that’s expected to be felt for multiple years—that probably isn’t the smartest way to go.
If next year Barkley shows that he's close to being the player he was before the injury, don't be stunned if the Giants take care of the young man.