Does Saquon Barkley have leverage in contract negotiations?

When the New York Giants take the field for mandatory minicamp this week, they will be without star running back Saquon Barkley.

The Giants placed a $10.1 million franchise tag on the 26-year-old this offseason, but Barkley has yet to sign it. He addressed the media Sunday following his youth football camp in Jersey City and expressed his feelings toward this year’s running back tag process.

“They tagged the top three guys,” Barkley said of himself, Tony Pollard (Dallas) and Josh Jacobs (Las Vegas). “We didn’t even get a chance to hit the open market. They put the cap at $10M. And when they have the tag, they have all the leverage. That’s the reality.”

FOX Sports’ Colin Cowherd believes Barkley has some leverage of his own following the four-year, $160 million deal that the Giants signed quarterback Daniel Jones to earlier this year. The monumental deal made Barkley even more valuable in Cowherd’s eyes.

“Saquon Barkley is not the best running back in the NFL, but he may be the most valuable because the owner of the New York Giants forced his [general manager] and his head coach to saddle up to Daniel Jones at a financial number, $40 million a year, [that] I can argue is almost double his value,” Cowherd said. “So, Saquon Barkley is not the best back, but what is Daniel Jones without him? With him, he’s mediocre and overpaid.”

The Giants used the franchise tag on Barkley following a season in which he rushed for 1,312 yards and 10 touchdowns en route to earning his second Pro Bowl nod. While Cowherd believes that was the right and predictable move by the Giants’ front office, he thinks the current price tag presented to the former Penn State standout does not represent where he stands among the top running backs in the league.

“The franchise tag would pay him a number, $10 million a year, that would indicate he’s the seventh-best running back in the NFL,” Cowherd said. “I think he’s closer to four or five, but it’s close.”

At the end of the day, Cowherd believes the Giants “negotiated against themselves” with the contract they gave Jones, and in return, are now trapped.

“Now, it makes Saquon Barkley — a very, very good back — the back with the most leverage in the NFL,” Cowherd added. “Because the offensive line is average to below average. The receiving core is a nothing burger. So, there you are.”

The Giants and Barkley have until July 17 to agree on a new deal. However, Barkley said he has not ruled out the possibility of sitting out for the season if a deal is not reached in time.

“I think that’s a conversation,” Barkley said. “When that date comes up, then I’ll have to sit down with my team, sit down with my family and make decisions.”

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