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Saquon Barkley, Giants have less than four weeks to do long-term deal

Mike Florio and Chris Simms play a round of “Which Doesn’t Belong and Why” to discuss franchise-tagged RBs Saquon Barkley, Tony Pollard and Josh Jacobs.

The NFL is a deadline-driven business. For the Giants and running back Saquon Barkley, the deadline is approaching.

In three weeks and six days, on July 17, the window closes on their ability to sign a multi-year deal, given the rules of the franchise tag.

The usual formula for translating a franchise tender into a long-term deal entails taking the first tag and the second one (a 20-percent raise), making them fully-guaranteed at signing, and filling out the final years of the contract from there.

For Barkley, whose position restricts him to a $10.1 million tag that fails to reflect his overall value to the offense, that formula leads to $22.22 million fully guaranteed to cover the first two years.

Barkley should want more than that. The Giants would be wise to offer it. But once team and player recognize that the normal formula for turning a franchise tender into a long-term deal doesn’t work in Barkley’s situation, they need to reach agreement on how much more he deserves.

To his credit, Barkley recently called out the Giants for leaking details aimed at making him look greedy. Someone did that several years ago, when it was leaked that quarterback Eli Manning expected to become the highest-paid quarterback in league history. While the realities of the market and Eli’s looming franchise tender led naturally to that result, the characterization made him seem unrealistic and overreaching, given that he wasn’t the best quarterback in the NFL at the time. (The fact that the current G.M. and head coach weren’t there when the Eli leaks happened suggest the leaks are coming from somewhere else in the organization.)

Things have gotten quiet since Barkley publicly complained about the tactics. He also has suggested that he might hold out into the season.

By then, however, there won’t be much for him to accomplish. After July 17, the two sides can only do a one-year deal. Barkley could seek more than $10.1 million for 2023. He also could request a commitment that the team won’t use the franchise tag again in 2024. The only limitation is that the deal would be one year in duration.

The problem for Barkley is that the system screws him and other running backs. While he made better money than most incoming tailbacks as the No. 2 overall pick in 2018, he’s got five years in the NFL. The franchise tag will extend it to six. A second tag would push it to seven. How, if he hits the market after seven seasons in the NFL at the running back position, will he ever get the kind of contract he would have gotten if he’d become a free agent in 2023?

It’s a frustrating and unfortunate situation. The players who are playing the most dangerous position in football can’t get a fair return for their efforts. They can’t get to the open market until it’s too late to matter.

And no one seems to care, other than the men who play the running back position. The NFL doesn’t care. The NFL Players Association doesn’t care. Why should they? The league and the union created the system that screws the league’s running backs.