It's always fun to watch how the free agent market materializes over time, but that's from an outside perspective.
As a player, it's a little more nerve-racking.
Some players are still out there on the market, and at this moment, they're likely watching their expected price tag drop with most players already joining new teams. That includes DE Jadeveon Clowney, who isn't expected at this point to hit his $22-23 million, but he'll remain patient.
And then there's players like Giants RB Saquon Barkley who, despite being under contract already, still looks on the market for future reference.
Steelers CB Joe Haden suggested via Twitter that Barkley should look for his next contract right away after viewing what happened with this year's market. And while Barkley liked that tweet, he also said this:
Gods timing... don't worry ima get it right. https://t.co/dKkTSbPteE- Saquon Barkley (@saquon) March 21, 2020
Barkley is entering the third year of his rookie deal that was a whopping $31.2 million in fully guaranteed money, since he was drafted second overall in the 2018 NFL Draft. With that, he ranks seventh in the league among running backs with about $7.8 million made per season. And with the numbers that he's been putting up already, it's hard to believe he'll stay there on the list.
But, as Haden pointed out, the running back market hasn't been the most fair.
The biggest example of that was Derrick Henry and the Titans. The NFL's rushing leader in 2019 was slapped with the franchise tag that sees him getting paid $10.278 million for next season. Is that really what a man that rushed for 1,540 yards on 340 carries (102.7 yards per game) with a league-leading 16 rushing touchdowns deserves?
Todd Gurley is another good example, too. He received the richest NFL deal for a running back in 2018 at four years, $60 million with $45 million of that guaranteed. But the Rams just released him out of the blue this offseason, and he took a one-yer deal with the Falcons for $6 million.
It wasn't that Gurley was incapable. This is the same man who led the NFL in rushing touchdowns in 2017 and 2018, while rushing for 1,305 yards and 1,251 yards, respectively. Last season, his production took a bit of a dip with 857 yards on the ground. But he still had 12 rushing touchdowns and two through the air. Those are more than solid numbers.
And look at what happened with Le'Veon Bell just this past year. He came back thinking he was going to break the bank only to receive less money than the Steelers had offered him before he sat out the entire 2018 season. He agreed to a deal with the Jets worth $52.5 million ($13.125 million AAV) with $35 million guaranteed. Still a great deal, but not what he expected.
In the end, the running back position isn't what it used to be. It's a pass-heavy league and running backs are behind wide receivers, quarterbacks and even some offensive linemen when it comes to getting paid. It's a reality that Barkley probably recognizes, too.
Could he top a fellow NFC East back in Ezekiel Elliott, with his $90 million over the next six years? That's $15 million per season with $50 million guaranteed. Barkley is worth that kind of money given his importance to the Giants' offense.
But it will come down to GM Dave Gettleman and whether or not he wants to cough up that money before Barkley's rookie deal expires, or decides to play the waiting game and potentially use his fifth-year option and franchise tags.