Updated: Mar 11
Photo Credit: Giants Wire - USA Today
The New York Giants salary cap savings are underway. While the masses expect the Giants to make a major cap savings move, it appears one move that won't be made is cutting star RB Saquon Barkley. There's bound to be some interest in the former second round pick, it's hard to determine how much value he has. While there are reasons to cut Barkley, there are reasons to keep him on the roster. We're here to break down whether the Giants should move on from Barkley or keep him for the 2022 season.
New general manager Joe Schoen is beginning to make the tough salary cap decisions to bring the Giants under the cap. The Giants have already released TE Kyle Rudolph and RB Devontae Booker last week and more moves will be on the way. The Giants are still around $6-$7MM over the salary cap. The new NFL fiscal year begins in less than two weeks and the Giants want to be financially ready for business.
The Giants want to remove Barkley's $7.2MM salary from the books, but not necessarily the player Saquon Barkley. The smartest way to do this is to find a trade partner. However, that may be easier said than done as the Giants haven’t had teams lining up to acquire him yet. But like I said, the Giants want to move his salary, not necessarily the star player. That $7.2MM cap hit, at the RB position no less, is killing their finances. But the worst thing could be trading him and watching him become the star we knew he'd be. But the rest of the NFL knows the Giants are in hell cap. If I was another team asking about Barkley, I wouldn't give up much for him. The Giants want to get maximum value for him, but that isn't good business for the team trading for him.
Barkley has shown flashes of brilliance early in his career but injury concerns have slowed down his progression. He's missed over 20 games in the last three seasons. While the second year back from an ACL tear is usually when the player regains his prior form, it's not always a given that he will be the same player.
Photo Credit: Giants Wire - USA Today
Barkley had a brilliant rookie year in 2018 when he played all 16 games, was named NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year and made his first Pro Bowl. Since then, it's been about what Barkley could be and not what we've seen on the field. He missed 3 games in 2019 with an ankle injury. In 2020, it was about him being fully healthy, but he then tore his ACL in Week 2 in Chicago. Last year, Barkley missed another 4 games due to a freak ankle injury. Can you bring back a running back for $7 million that has injury concerns but can also be the best back in the league?
We've seen Barkley when he's healthy. Barkley is a game-changing, home run hitting, dual threat running back. He can score anytime he has the ball in his hands. But the Giants’ offense has been so terrible, Barkley hasn't even looked as good as his backup Devontae Booker in the backfield. The offensive line and scheme just did not match up well for Barkley this season. He's a home run hitting back while Booker is a slasher that hits the hole and goes. Barkley needs to trust his eyes and offensive line and hit the hole more often. Plus you can't get rid of Daniel Jones's best offensive weapon. Kenny Golladay struggled last year as his primary weapon, but to get a full evaluation of Daniel Jones you need Barkley in the backfield. Jones has rarely had his star running back available in his first three seasons. That's part of the evaluation process that the Giants need to go through with Jones.
Brian Daboll and Make Kafka will be tasked to find a way to fit Saquon back into the offense and leverage his explosive capabilities. But in general, star running backs just don't win you Super Bowls. The last MVP level running back to win a Super Bowl goes back to Marshall Faulk. The last star running back to win a Super Bowl probably is Marshawn Lynch. Running back by committee is the way to build your in the NFL. Using a first round pick on a running back is rare and risky. And Dave Gettleman used a #2 pick on a running back (thanks Gettleman). The Giants could easily find 2 or 3 players to share the load like the Rams were able to with Akers/Michel. Solid running backs can be found on Day 3 of the draft in the 3rd or 4th round.
One of the simplest issues the Giants face is that they really have no face of the franchise. Daniel Jones is the QB, but I don't know many fans that love him. He might not even be here after the 2022 season if he doesn’t improve (see my previous article). Love it or not, fans love Barkley and he wants to be here. Right now the team has few stars and Barkley is the only jersey with buying right now other than Taylor, Manning, and Strahan. The Giants and Barkley are stuck with each other and will have to roll the dice on each side getting better.
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