In a bizarre turn of events, the New York Giants and their superstar running back, Saquon Barkley, have been unable to reach a long-term contract extension this offseason, leaving the future of their partnership uncertain.
As negotiations stall, the Giants made a surprising move by drafting Eric Gray, a talented running back out of Oklahoma, in the fourth round of the 2023 NFL Draft.
While Gray may not pose an immediate threat to Barkley’s starting role, his presence provides the team with valuable insurance in the backfield.
For now, Barkley will continue to be the primary back in the Giants’ offense. However, the cloud of uncertainty looms over his long-term future with the team.
If the two sides fail to reach an agreement by the July 17 deadline, Barkley will be left to play the upcoming season on the franchise tag, effectively making him a free agent at the end of the 2023 season.
Interestingly, Gray has already inked a contract that extends through 2026, putting him in a prime position to step into the starting role if Barkley and the Giants part ways next offseason.
Furthermore, there is a remote possibility that Barkley refuses to sign the tag and sit out, which would thrust Gray into the spotlight as the starting running back.
While this scenario seems unlikely, as Barkley is expected to eventually sign and play on the tag, it underscores the unpredictable nature of the situation.
Barkley’s injury history also adds another layer of uncertainty. Prior to staying healthy throughout the entire 2022 season, Barkley missed a significant number of games due to injuries from 2020 to 2021. Gray’s presence provides the Giants’ offense with valuable depth and insurance should Barkley suffer any injuries during the 2023 season.
Regardless of the outcome of Barkley’s contract negotiations, the addition of Gray brings a fresh infusion of talent to the Giants’ backfield.
Standing at 5-foot-9 and weighing 206 pounds, Gray displayed his prowess at Oklahoma, tallying 1,366 rushing yards and 11 touchdowns on 213 carries in the 2022 season.
His impressive 44 carries of 10+ yards led all running backs in the Big 12, according to Pro Football Focus.
Renowned analyst Lance Zierlein of NFL.com described Gray as a “decisive, creative runner with the size and skill set for three-down consideration on the pro level.” Gray’s abilities make him an ideal complement to Barkley in the Giants’ backfield, potentially forming a formidable duo for Big Blue.
As the contract saga unfolds and the Giants navigate the uncertainty surrounding Barkley’s future, the addition of Eric Gray injects intrigue and depth into their running back corps, providing reassurance and potential for the team moving forward.