saquon barkley
EAST RUTHERFORD, NEW JERSEY - SEPTEMBER 12: Saquon Barkley #26 of the New York Giants looks on during the game against the Denver Broncos at MetLife Stadium on September 12, 2021 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. (Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images)

How the Giants could keep (or replace) Barkley, Jones in 2023

NY Giants current state

The New York Giants have a number of key players set to become unrestricted free agents (21) this offseason. And their decisions could have a major impact on the Giants’ future.

With the NFL Draft and Free Agency period here’s a look at some of the key ones and their potential impact on the club.

Giants options for Saquon Barkley

A large number of fans would be upset to see Barkley on a new team in 2023. 

It is estimated that Barkley will cost around $12 million/year. The question is will the Giants be willing to pay that or even potentially more to keep Barkley in a Giants’ uniform?

Barkley had a very impressive season this past year. Barkley finished 4th overall in the NFL with 1,312 rushing yards, and had 10 rushing TDs (8th overall). Barkley finished 14th overall out of RBs in receiving yards (338) and 0 receiving TDs. I believe he re-established himself as one of the premier backs in the league.

Barkley is listed as #8 on ESPN’s top 50 Free Agents. He is the only RB in the Top 10. Here is ESPN’s write up about Barkley:

“I consider Barkley a top-three running back. He has regained his explosiveness and suddenness after injuries limited him to 15 total games over the previous two seasons. He’s a difference-maker with big-play juice in both the run and pass game.”

 Barkley had 32 rushes of 10 or more yards this season — sixth most in the league — and finished with 1,650 yards from scrimmage and 10 touchdowns. He’s another candidate for the franchise tag if New York can’t work out a deal with him.”

Schoen was non-committal when talking about Barkley’s future, but said the limited salary cap space would dictate events.

The Re-Sign Option

The Giants re-sign Saquon Barkley to a multi-year deal in the neighborhood of $12 million a season. 

Consider that Barkley’s cap hit was $7.2 million in 2022; a new contract will increase the cap hit, but most will probably be added towards the end of a long term deal.

The Giants still have Gary Brightwell (Round 6, 2021) for 2 more seasons ($984,718/season), and Jashaun Corbin (Undrafted, 2022) for 1 more season ($750,000).

Matt Breida ($1.05 million) is also a UFA, but the Giants might want to let him walk and draft another RB in a later round to add insurance for Barkley.

The Tag Option

If the Giants are unable or unwilling to sign Barkley, then they could use their Franchise Tag on him. This seems like an option that would allow for the Giants to draft a RB in the 2023 and/or 2024 NFL Draft(s), and to utilize Barkley for at least 1 more season.

This would force the Giants to pay Barkley $10,091,000 (tag price) for the 2023 season.

If the Giants go this route, then that means that they are either re-signing Daniel Jones, trading for a QB, signing a free agent QB, or drafting a QB in the 2023 Draft.

The Nuclear Option

Another route the Giants could take is to let Barkley walk. They could either re-sign Matt Breida and/or target another free agent running back. Some of the available free agent running backs are:

  • Josh Jacobs (estimated $13 million/year)
  • Tony Pollard (estimated $9 million/year)
  • Miles Sanders (estimated $7 million/year)
  • Kareem Hunt (estimated $7 million/year)
  • Jamaal Williams (estimated $4 million/year)

Or the Giants could draft a running back somewhere from the 1st through 3rd rounds in the 2023 NFL Draft. This might not seem like a popular move to make at face value, but the recent successes of rookie RBs during the 2022 season have been impressive.

  • Travis Etienne for the Jacksonville Jaguars had 1,125 rushing yards with 5 TDs in 17 games. Etienne was drafted in 2021, but missed the entire 2021 season due to an injury.
  • Kenneth Walker III (Round 2) for the Seattle Seahawks had 1,050 rushing yards with 9 TDs in 15 games.
  • Tyler Allgeier (Round 5) with the Atlanta Falcons had 1,035 rushing yards with 4 TDs in 16 games.
  • Dameon Pierce (Round 4) with the Houston Texans had 939 rushing yards with 5 TDs in 13 games.
  • Isiah Pacheco (Round 7) with the Kansas City Chiefs had 830 rushing yards with 5 TDs in 17 games.
  • Brian Robinson (Round 3) with the Washington Commanders had 797 rushing yards with 3 TDs in 12 games.

Those were just the top 6 rookie RB leaders during the 2022 season. Fans also got to see future stars in James Cook (Bills, Round 2), Rachaad White (Buccaneers, Round 3), and Breece Hall (Jets, Round 2) among others.

Giants Options for Daniel Jones

Before this past season, the Giants declined to pick up Jones’ 5th year option which would have been for the 2023 season ($22.4 million). Hindsight is 20/20, but this now looks like this was the wrong thing to do.

Daniel Jones posted career highs in passing attempts (472), completions (317), passing yards (3,205), and completion percentage (67.2%) during the 2023 season. Jones also posted career highs in rushing attempts (120), rushing yards (708), and rushing TDs (7). Jones helped lead the Giants to their first post-season appearance since 2016.

PFF graded Daniel Jones as the #17 overall offensive grading for QBs (75.8 grade), #20 overall passing grading (70.0), and #6 overall running grading for QBs (84.4 grade).

The Re-Sign Option

It is estimated that the market value for Daniel Jones is 3 years at $26.2 million/year. This is a massive jump from the $8.4 million cap hit in 2022. This is not out of line though when QBs finish off their rookie contracts.

If the Giants re-sign Jones, then they are securing the most crucial piece of the offense for the next 3 seasons. Jones really improved during his first season with new head coach Brian Daboll and offensive coordinator Mike Kafka. We could see even more improvement as Jones becomes more comfortable with this offense. This could make the Giants a perennial playoff team and NFC East Champion contenders for several seasons.

The Tag Option

If the Giants are unable to sign or unwilling to sign Jones, then comes the Franchise Tag option. This option would cost the Giants $32,416,000 in 2023. More than half of their cap space would disappear with this option. They could use the tag and then negotiate a long-term deal to avoid that massive cap hit.

The Nuclear Option

The Giants part ways with Daniel Jones.

The Giants could work on a deal to bring in a QB like Derek Carr ($34.9 million cap hit), Aaron Rodgers ($31.6 million cap hit), or Mac Jones ($4.3 million cap hit).

The Giants could hit the QB free agency market:

  • Geno Smith (estimated $39 million/year)
  • Jimmy Garoppolo (estimated $35 million/year)
  • Andy Dalton (estimated $6.8 million/year)
  • Baker Mayfield (estimated $6.5 million/year)
  • Jacoby Brissett (estimated $5.4 million/year)
  • Sam Darnold (estimated $5.1 million/year)

If the Giants hit the QB free agency market and land a QB for under $10 million/year; they could turn their focus into drafting a QB either in the 2023 or 2024 NFL Draft. The 2023 Draft currently has some high rated QBs including Bryce Young (Alabama), C.J. Stroud (Ohio State), Will Levis (Kentucky), and Anthony Richardson (Florida); at least 2 of those QBs are projected to go in the Top 5, but the other 2 should still be 1st round picks. There are plenty of other QB prospects including Tanner McKee (Stanford), Hendon Hooker (Tennessee), Malik Cunningham (Louisville), Max Duggan (TCU), and Aidan O’Connell (Purdue).

A look at the rest of the UFAs (21) and RFA (1)

Unrestricted Free Agents (21):

  • RB Saquon Barkley
  • RB Matt Breida
  • ILB Landon Collins
  • ILB Jarrad Davis
  • DL Justin Ellis
  • C Jon Feliciano
  • OL Nick Gates
  • P Jamie Gillan
  • WR Richie James
  • S Tony Jefferson
  • WR Marcus Johnson
  • QB Daniel Jones
  • LS Casey Kreiter
  • S Julian Love
  • CB Fabian Moreau
  • WR Sterling Shepard
  • WR Darius Slayton
  • ILB Jaylon Smith
  • OLB Jihad Ward
  • DL Nick Williams
  • OLB Oshane Ximines

Restricted Free Agents (1):

  • DL Henry Mondeaux