The New York Giants exceeded expectations under their new regime under general manager Joe Schoen and head coach Brian Daboll, making the playoffs as a wild card team and winning their first playoff game since 2011.
But Schoen and Daboll know this offseason will be crucial to continuing that success with many key players poised to hit free agency.
Star running back Saquon Barkley is one such player. Barkley and quarterback Daniel Jones top Schoen’s priority list. They have already had discussions about a possible extension.
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“We weren’t really that close,” Schoen said via Ralph Vacchiano of Fox Sports, who reported that Barkley was offered a multi-year contract worth $12 million per season. Barkley reportedly turned down that offer.
“Listen, Saquon has done everything we’ve asked him to do and he’s a good football player,” Schoen added. “Place value … we’ll see how we want to build this team and allocate our resources. That’s what it boils down to.”
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Vacchiano reports that Barkley expects a deal in line with what San Francisco 49ers running back Christian McCaffrey got: $16 million per season.
However, Barkley said Monday that he would be “realistic.”
“I’m really not too concerned about resetting any markets,” he explained. “I know what I was on my way to do, but having two years full of injuries and having a season without performing at the level that I know I can do (last year) doesn’t help.”
The Giants have the franchise tag in their back pocket if they wish to use it on Barkley, although Barkley would prefer not to go that route. Teams use the tag sometimes to add negotiation time to a long-term deal, which is an option if it’s New York.
The franchise tag for a running back for next season would be worth $10.1 million for one year.
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Big Blue has ample salary-cap space to get things done this offseason. OverTheCap.com has the Giants with the third-most cap space in the league at around $54 million. Jones played well enough to convince the Giants that he has what it takes to lead them on offense.
Defensive lineman Dexter Lawrence could also be in line for his $12.4 million fifth-year option. Although the Giants saw a tremendous jump in production from him this season that could warrant an extension.
Safety Julian Love is also a free agent, along with wide receiver Sterling Shepard and center Jon Feliciano.
However, it was clear that the Giants’ offense was led by Barkley, and he gave up 1,312 rushing yards on 295 attempts (4.4 yards per carry) and 10 touchdowns. He also caught 57 of his 76 targets for 338 yards.
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As Barkley mentioned, his torn ACL and injury history will influence the Giants’ thinking. But he has shown, when he’s healthy, that he can be an innovative running back, as McCaffrey has been since he was traded to the Bay Area.