Rob Ninkovich understands Saquon Barkley’s frustration with the Giants — and thinks the root of that discontent may be a huge contract awarded to one of his teammates.
A big part of the Giants’ and their success in 2022 revolved around Barkley.
But Daniel Jones, whom Ninkovich called an “average quarterback”, emerged as the offensive player – revitalized under first-year head coach Brian Dabol and first-year offensive coordinator Mike Kafka – who “taken advantage” when he signed a four-year deal.
However, with Barkley unsigned, the franchise tag attached to his name, the prospect of a long-term deal has evaporated and a holdout is emerging as a likely scenario.
Ninkovich, who played 11 seasons in the NFL, said, “For Saccone, it’s going to be really tough to see a quarterback who’s making $40 million a year basically depend on him to run the ball to set up his play-action passes – and he’s mediocre.” said during a segment on ESPN’s “Get Up” on Friday,
“So if I’m Saxon, I’m saying, ‘Hey Daniel, get some more bubble wrap. Go put on double braces. Get ready and you run the football, and I’ll watch.'”
Barkley, according to Ninkovich, was the Giants’ “hallmark” last year, the center of a “run-the-football-first football team” that clinched the post-season and then defeated Minnesota in the wild-card round for the franchise’s first playoff win since 2012.
In his fifth NFL season, recovering from injuries that had limited him earlier in his career, Barkley rushed for 1,312 yards and 10 touchdowns, while also catching another 57 passes for 338 yards.
Dealing with a mix of busts (Kenny Golladay), sparks (Isaiah Hodgins) and injuries (including Van’Dale Robinson and Sterling Shepard), the Giants continually shuffled the pieces at wide receiver.
Barkley served as the de facto no. 1 receiver in addition to his established role in the backfield at times, but what happened in the offseason was a contract dilemma rather than a reward for those contributions.
Jones signed his own four-year, $160 million deal on March 7, before the franchise tag deadline, which allowed the Giants to make last-minute changes and use the tag on Barkley.
The Giants and Barkley were unable to negotiate a deal before the July 17 deadline, and the ongoing storyline continued throughout the week after Barkley removed mention of the Giants from his social media accounts—which Ninkovich compared to “having a girlfriend when you break up”.
“You take everything from every single platform that somehow brought you to that person,” Ninkovich said.
That’s how serious the situation has become between Barkley and the Giants.
The Giants’ final three-year contract offer to Barkley was within $1 million and $2 million of the prior numbers. According to The Post’s Ryan Dunleavy, 2 in total turned down their request.
The two sides still could not agree, and six minutes before the deadline, Barkley tweeted, “It is what it is.”
Barkley could skip training camp and even extend that holdout to the regular season, or he could play out 2023 at the $10.1 million franchise tag — and potentially get it again next offseason.
Ninkovich, whose ESPN contract will reportedly expire this summer amid network layoffs, said Barkley has only tried to find a contract “that reflects the production you have on the football field — and the leadership you bring to the locker room.”
“So when the team comes to you and they’re offering you a contract that you feel doesn’t represent the value that you bring to the organization, then your emotions can take over and the frustration can turn to anger,” Ninkovich said.