The New York Giants are going full steam ahead in their desperately needed rebuild. Many believed that would involve leaving veteran running back Saquon Barkley, the second overall pick in 2018 and the crown jewel of Big Blue’s previous regime. Yet, heading into the last week of March, Barkley is still on a roster that, barring a miracle, will produce plenty of losses in 2022.
This offseason has featured more stars on the move than ever before. Russell Wilson, Deshaun Watson and Davante Adams are just three of the great players who have a new home. Now you can add Tyreek Hill, the lightning-fast wide receiver who moved from the Kansas City Chiefs to the Miami Dolphins in the latest NFL blockbuster.
The madness of this offseason proved two things. First, no superstar is untouchable. Second, the Giants should bite the bullet and move on from their entertaining but underwhelming running back.
Saquon Barkley failed to live up to his high expectations
When Barkley joined New York as the second overall pick, former general manager Dave Gettleman praised the back as someone “touched by the hand of God.” There was no doubt in his mind or the rest of the front office mind that the Penn State star would turn a Giants offense starring Eli Manning and Odell Beckham Jr.
By the end of the freshman year, Barkley looked like the star many expected. But three full seasons later, Giants fans are wondering when (or if) the 2018 Rookie of the Year will look like his old self again.
In 2019, Saquon still managed to eclipse the 1,000 yard barrier despite missing three games due to a sprained ankle. However, the star running back’s 2020 campaign ended in Week 2 after a devastating tear in his ACL.
Last season, it was clear that Barkley was still hampered by the ACL. The 25-year-old averaged just 3.66 yards per carry and rushed for 593 yards and two touchdowns in 13 games. Along with setting up just one 100-yard game, he also missed four weeks with an ankle injury.
It wasn’t just health that kept “SaQuads” from reaching its full potential. The Giants offense as a whole took a nose dive under former head coaches Pat Shurmur and Joe Judge. Additionally, New York is still struggling to address its offensive line, which Barkley needs to be successful.
Tyreek Hill trade should force Giants to pursue Barkley trade
On Wednesday morning, the Chiefs and Dolphins pulled off a superb blockbuster that few saw coming. Despite several elite years in Kansas City, Hill was traded to Miami in exchange for a first, second and fourth round pick in 2022 and a fourth and sixth round pick in 2023. The Fins then inked Cheetah a four-year, $120 million extension, making him the highest-paid wide in NFL history.
The Dolphins took one look at a highly competitive AFC and realized a major move was needed to contend. Meanwhile, the Chiefs received maximum value on a player they weren’t likely to extend.
How does this apply to Giants? For starters, while Barkley has underperformed from his draft position, there are teams that could still be infatuated with his talent. Take a team like the Buffalo Bills, who already have a franchise QB and a plan for success. Given the aggressive moves they’ve seen made by their divisional and conference rivals, could the Bills consider Barkley the final piece of the puzzle?
The flip side for Big Blue is Barkley’s long-term future in New York. By now, it’s become apparent that second contracts for first-round running backs yield next to no value. With new general manager Joe Schoen replacing the incompetent Gettleman, the likelihood of New York keeping Saquon beyond this season is already slim. So why not redeem it now and try to accumulate some project compensation?
New York wouldn’t get anything close to what Kansas City got for Hill if it made Barkley available in a trade. But even if he’s a fourth- and sixth-round pick, it’s something the rebuilding Giants need to consider. After all, how successful can the G-Men be if they keep their backs during what is sure to be a tough season?
Trading Saquon Barkley also makes financial sense
For a Chiefs team that is set to pay a royal ransom to Patrick Mahomes, keeping its Super Bowl-caliber core together was ultimately going to become impossible. So as much as Hill meant to Mahomes and KC’s dynamic offense, he knew the looming salary cap danger awaiting him.
Schoen is already incurring the wrath of the salary cap in his first offseason with Big Blue. Gettleman left New York with four wins and over $7 million to lose just to go under the cap. So while New York has already taken cost-cutting measures, it still has a long way to go to meet Schoen’s goal of raising $40 million.
Naturally, leaving Barkley will help with this mission. The fifth-year running back is expected to earn $7.2 million in the final year of his rookie contract. Trading it for draft picks would take that money off New York’s payroll and allow it to allocate the funds to rookie draft picks and other critical areas of need.
Gettleman’s poster child Trading Barkley would be the ultimate sign that a new era of Giants football has arrived. And given the big names we’ve already seen on the move, now is the time for Big Blue to strike.
All stats courtesy of Football Reference and contract figures courtesy of Spotrac.
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