Free Agency Watch: Saquon Barkley | Landing Spots and Free Agency Outlook

by Matt Babich · Contracts & Free Agency
Saquon Barkley franchise tag

Welcome to PlayerProfiler’s 2024 Free Agency Preview! This year, we’ll be providing you with player-by-player insights as we approach the Free Agency period opening March 13th. Previously, we broke down the free agency outlooks for Michael Pittman and Tee Higgins. We’ll continue this series by examining the potential landing spots and free agency outlook of New York Giants running back Saquon Barkley.

2023 Review

It was a disappointing year all around for the Giants, but in particular for Saquon Barkley. After an electric 1,600-yard and 10 touchdown season, the veteran running back regressed to the tune of just over 1,200 total yards. The team struggled mightily as a whole and did not provide Barkley with many avenues to succeed. He looked uninspired in his tenure on the franchise tag.

On the surface, 2023 was one of Barkley’s worst seasons as a rusher. He logged 3.7 (No. 51) True Yards per Carry en route to his second season under 1,000 rushing yards in the last three. However, there were bright spots to a down year. His 4.9-percent (No. 15) Breakaway Run Rate shows he still has the electric burst to rip off big plays on the ground. Further, he’s still the pass-catching savant we’ve known him to be, logging 1.1 (No. 27) Yards Per Route Run on an otherworldly 15.3-percent (No. 5) Target Share.

The Giants failed Barkley, dealing him the worst hand possible and expecting him to build upon last year’s success. Don’t let this be a cross Saquon has to bear. He’s 27 years old, and has plenty of tread on the tires to return to excellence.

Most Likely Landing Spots

New York Giants

Well, we’re here again. A year after being disappointingly franchise tagged and handed disrespectful incentive targets (1,300 rushing yards, 65 receptions, and 11 touchdowns for a grand total of…$1 Million), the Giants are exploring placing the tag on Barkley yet again. From Barkley’s comments, it’s clear that being tagged again would be demoralizing. However, it doesn’t seem at this time that he would be a holdout candidate.

The Giants really put themselves in a bind with the contract they gave Daniel Jones. While the team only has $27 Million in cap space, they don’t have many high-value free agents to retain. They can also move on from Darren Waller if they choose, and save roughly $12 Million. Given the team’s circumstances, it appears tagging Barkley again is the most likely scenario. Brian Daboll needs a sliver of hope for his tenure in New York to continue. Right now, Barkley is the only hope he has.

Washington Commanders

What do two mediocre running backs on rookie contracts plus $83 Million in cap space equal? The ability to introduce one of the league’s most electric talents into an offense that took significant steps last year. The Commanders have the ability to do what most teams can’t: offer Barkley a player-friendly deal over the span of multiple years. 

While the tandem of Brian Robinson and Antonio Gibson played well enough last season, a Saquon signing would keep defenses honest and take pressure off Sam Howell (or whoever the QB ends up being) and the passing game. 

Las Vegas Raiders

Antonio Pierce wants the Raiders to make some noise, and they’re ready to fight. Here we have a squad who, despite missing some key pieces, is defensively sound. They competed in nearly every game, and stuck around with their divisional opponents despite wielding a significantly less talented roster. 

The Raiders have over $43 Million in cap space, and desperately need to upgrade their offense to compete in their division and fight for a playoff spot. Vegas is more likely to tag incumbent starter Josh Jacobs or role with cheap rookie contracts with Zamir White and supplemental draft pieces. However, being a new regime generally means going in your own direction, not that of those before you. This could lead to a pursuit of Barkley should he hit the open market.

Minnesota Vikings

The Vikings have now tried out both Alexander Mattison and Cam Akers for their Dalvin Cook replacement, and neither panned out. With two star receivers on rookie contracts and a veteran QB with limited shelf-life, it’s now-or-never mode for the Vikings.

While the Vikings defense and offensive line need the bulk of the front office’s attention, we know teams don’t always operate with sound logic. The team may view bolstering the rushing attack and creating a super-power offense as the way to get over the hump (it isn’t) and pursue Barkley on the open market.

Predicted Landing Spot

The Giants’ season ended quite some time ago, and we’ve yet to see reports of contract talks between the veteran back and the front office. Until we do, it grows more likely by the day that Barkley will be franchise tagged by the Giants once again. As I said before, it’s a lifeless team with a coach desperate to stay in the favor of the Giants’ ownership group. He needs Barkley to accomplish that.