NFL running backs have attempted to Start A Conversation over the last few weeks. Of the six players who got slapped with the franchise tag this offseason, three were running backs. The other three players reached multi-year, lucrative extensions with their current teams. No running back managed to do so. The prominent backs in the league decided to speak up about this by tweeting about how they're getting uniquely screwed relative to other positions.
Saquon Barkley, in many ways, was their poster child. He was the best running back to get tagged this offseason, and he was central to the success of the New York Giants last year to a degree few other backs reached. He was top-five in rushing yards last year and anybody with eyes could tell you there's no way the Giants would've sniffed the playoffs if it weren't for him. If anyone was going to get paid it would've been Barkley. Yet he and the Giants couldn't reach a long-term deal, leading to Barkley stating rather bluntly he's willing to sit out games to get a fair deal.
All of this discourse culminated in a running back Zoom call last weekend. We do not know what was said in that call, but whatever conclusion the running backs reached didn't help solidify Barkley's position. Instead, he ended up signing the exact kind of deal that all these running backs are trying to prevent by speaking out in this manner.
For those keeping track at home, the franchise tag was worth $10.1 million and Barkley refused to sign. So, basically, Barkley making all this noise culminated in a $2 million signing bonus and an extra $1 million in incentives. As noted in a later tweet from Adam Schefter, Barkley can be tagged again next year. He did not get long-term financial security nor the ability to gauge his value on the open market. Instead, he got a few extra million and performance-based bonuses.
That is still a lot of money and if Barkley plays so well the Giants tag him again next year he'll make more money than almost any other RB in the two-year stretch.
It is objectively a lot of money to play football for a year. It's also the exact same trap that other great running backs have fallen into and will continue to fall into. That's why the men who make up the position group are being so loud about this. The running back market has been moving towards short-term deals and they want to be afforded the same breathing room in the form of multi-year contracts that other positions are afforded.
Unfortunately the Barkley scenario is exactly why they will not get that and may never get that. Barkley theoretically had all the leverage in the world as an elite talent whose team designed their entire offense around him. He attempted to use that leverage in public and private negotiations. The end result was an incremental increase compared to the franchise tag.
It is the reality. No amount of Zoom calls are going to change that.