On the surface it may not seem like it, but the Giants’ long-term deal with quarterback Daniel Jones will have some real ramifications for the Bears’ running back room.
Multiple reports say that the Giants and Jones agreed to a new four-year $160-million contract, with even more money available in incentives. The timing of the deal was the important matter for the Bears, however. Since the Giants were able to reach their agreement with Jones on Tuesday, they were also able to use their franchise tag on Saquon Barkley before the 3 p.m. deadline. And since Barkley received the tag, it’s highly unlikely that he’ll be coming to Chicago this year.
There are two types of franchise tags: exclusive and non-exclusive. It’s unclear which one Barkley received, but the non-exclusive tag is far more prevalent. Under that tag, Barkley would have the right to negotiate a long term deal with another team, and the Giants would have the right to match any offer. If Barkley does come to an agreement with another team, and the Giants decide to let him walk, then Barkley’s new team would have to give the Giants two first-round draft picks. Simply put, there’s no way the Bears would pay that price to bring Barkley to Chicago.
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Barkley joins Tony Pollard and Josh Jacobs as high profile running backs to receive the tag this year, and all of a sudden a free agent class that appeared to be stacked is much thinner. There are still big names set to hit the market, like Miles Sanders, Kareem Hunt, Damien Harris and Devin Singletary, but re-signing David Montgomery may be a more attractive proposition to the Bears than ditching a team leader for any of those players. Barkley would’ve had one tier to himself in free agency this season, but Montgomery has proven himself both as a playmaker and a capable pass blocker when picking up the blitz. Plus, his more bruising running style complements Khalil Herbert well, who is more of a “one cut and go” type back. Further, Montgomery's motor and work ethic are exactly what the Bears are looking for as they reshape the team's culture to fit Matt Eberflus' H.I.T.S. program.
The Bears have said they like what Montgomery brings to the team both on and off the field, and that they want to re-sign him. Montgomery has also expressed a desire to reach a new deal with the Bears. The question will be whether the two sides can find common ground in negotiations. After all, the rhetoric was the same when Roquan Smith was going through contract talks, and now Smith is racking up tackles for the Ravens. Of course, there’s a chance the Bears sign no free agent running backs and decide to go into 2023 with Herbert and a new rookie rusher leading the way. But after Tuesday’s news that Barkley received the tag, it seems even more likely that Montgomery could end up back in Chicago next season.