The deadline for franchise-tagged players to sign a long-term deal ahead of the 2023 season has come and gone with none of the three running backs who were tagged — Saquon Barkley, Josh Jacobs, and Tony Pollard — reaching an agreement with their team on a multi-year pact. Of the trio, only Pollard has signed the $10.09 million tender, and he is at the moment the only one of the three who is expected to report on time to training camp.
Let's break down what this means for the Giants, the Raiders and the Cowboys, and for the running back position overall.
Saquon Barkley – New York Giants
It's already been reported that Barkley will not report to training camp on time. He is expected to miss a significant portion of camp, if not the entirety of it. His representatives floated earlier this offseason that he could even hold out into the season.
Without Barkley, New York has Matt Breida, 2021 sixth-round pick Gary Brightwell and 2023 fifth-round pick Eric Gray in the backfield. Breida clearly has the most experience of the group, but in six NFL seasons he has never been anything close to a full-time back. His career high snap rate is just 39%.
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New York added multiple playmakers to its offense this offseason by trading for Darren Waller, signing Parris Campbell and drafting Jalin Hyatt, but Barkley is still by far the most explosive skill-position player the Giants have. And with Daniel Jones now a highly paid quarterback, the avenues for the Giants to add premier playmakers in the future are about to get slimmer.
If Barkley does eventually sign the tender and play on it this year, he and the Giants may have to go through this whole song and dance again. It's worth noting that a second tag would cost 120% of the first-year tag, meaning Barkley would be due around $12.1 million for the 2024 season if he were to be tagged again. A third tag is extremely cost-prohibitive for teams, so he would likely hit unrestricted free agency after that.