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The franchise deadline came and went on Monday at 4:00pm. And after all the smoke was chest, we are right where we started, star running back Saquon Barkley placed on the franchise tag but the tag isn't signed. Barkley and the New York Giants were seeking a long term dream, but as the 4:00pm deadline came, no deal was reached. Giants' GM Joe Schoen and Barkley's camp talked all day on Monday, but no dead was done. So what's next for Saquon Barkley as he looks to get his value?
The Fallout from Monday's Franchise Tag Deadline
Yesterday was further proof that the running back position had been devalued by NFL owners and GMs. On average, the running back position is the 3rd lowest annual salary in the league, only ahead of the punter and kicker positions. The game has changed so much that the need for a star running back is less and less. The rules make it easier to throw because you protect the QB and can't touch WRs. The name of the game is points and it's easier to get them by throwing the football.
The franchise tag has been abused for years to cap position players salaries. You franchise a player by giving them a one year deal based on the average to salaries at your position, not the average salary in the league. Then if you have that tag, you can't negotiate with other teams and if the deadline passes you can't strike a new deal until the following season. If you have a bad year, you miss out on your new contract and if you have a great year then you most likely will get another tag and the process starts again.
The outcry from starting running backs yesterday was loud and justified. Derrick Henry, Christian McCaffrey, Johnson Taylor and Austin Ekeler all came to the defense of Barkley, Josh Jacobs and Tony Pollard. Henry took to Twitter with harsh words,
"At this point, just take the RB position out the game then. The ones that want to be great & work as hard as they can to give their all to an organization, just seems like it don’t even matter. I’m with every RB that’s fighting to get what they deserve."
Ekeler went as far as to say that the running backs all need to band together to change this for all RBs. The star RB wanted answers from NFL ownership to how we got to this point, and I couldn't agree more. It's not right that because you play a certain position, this is your salary and that's that.
According to Ryan Dunleavy of the New York Post, "the Giants didn't budge off an offer of $11 million per year with a guarantee slightly north of $22 million even though it was within $1 million to $2 million on both ends of Barkley's reduced asking price." The money was close but Barkley wants to be paid to the value of the team, not the value of my position. Schoen prioritized both Daniel Jones and Barkley this offseason, but the deal ofr Jones got done and Barkley's deal never came to pass.
Don't sign the tag, don't report to camp
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As of today, Barkley hasn't signed the $10.1 million franchise tag. Reports say that he's not going to report to training camp later this month on July 25 when veterans report to Giants camp. This is an expected move that Barkley needs to make at this point, even though he has little to no leverage. The contract dispute has never been about resetting the market, it’s about being compensated fairly. He has to take a stand for all RBs now. Barkley wants to be paid as the best player on the team, not as one of the top RBs in the league. Being paid as the best RB in the league clearly gets you paid peanuts.
During his holdout, Barkley can’t be fined while the franchise tag remains unsigned. So it’s in his best interest financially to not sign the tag. And if he doesn’t sign the tag, he’s not allowed to be in the Giants’ facility regardless. However, Saquon will run the risk of forfeiting close to $560,000 per game if his holdout runs into the regular season (this is essentially his game check). So eventually, the money will catch up to him.
Sign the tag, don't participate in camp
There’s always the idea of Saquon signing the tag and reporting to camp to limit any potential fines or losing game checks. But what many players have done in the past is report to camp, but not participate in practice. You typically see players off to the side, riding the bike and not working in team drills. We saw Stefon Diggs report to mandatory camp, check in and leave without working out. While this wasn’t a contract dispute, this was definitely a sign that you had an unhappy WR and a few days later their issues were resolved.
While this tactic usually works to cause a distraction and speed up the negotiation process, this is not an option for Barkley. For one, the rules state that Barkley can’t negotiate a new deal with the Giants until after this season because they could not agree to a deal before the franchise tag deadline. So they’re no point in sitting off to the side if you aren’t going to be fined. Plus, in my mind, that’s not who I feel Barkley is. Barkley is a team guy, captain and leader. I don’t feel like he would willingly sit out if he was healthy enough to play.
Photo Credit: GettyImage
Sign the tag, participate in camp
Then there’s the path of least resistance by signing the tag and reporting to camp. This is the win for fans and the organization to have Barkley in the fold and 100% participating in camp. But this is not what’s in the best interest of Barkley and all the RBs. Like I said, Barkley needs to take a stand for all the running backs in the league and stand tall. I agree with Austin Ekeler that the league’s RBs need to band together and they need answers.
I feel all running backs need to stage a walkout to fix this broken system. The organizations have abused this franchise tag rule to the point where RBs have no path forward. They are subject to physical abuse, run into the ground during their rookie contract and rarely cash in on their first big negotiation. RB Joe Mixon had to agree to a pay cut to remain on the Bengals. The RBs are drafted so low in the draft that they don’t get a big annual salary to start so they never reach full value. This saga of Barkley will keep going and it’s in his best interest to stand tall.