The deadline for franchise-tagged players to sign a long-term deal ahead of the 2023 season has come and gone with Saquon Barkley, Josh Jacobs, and Tony Pollard -- reaching an agreement with their team on a multi-year pact. Of the trio, only Pollard has signed the $10.09 million tender, and he is at the moment the only one of the three who is expected to report on time to training camp.--
New York Giants
It's already been reported that Barkley will not report to training camp on time. He is expected to miss a significant portion of camp, if not the entirety of it. His representatives floated earlier this offseason that he could even hold out into the season.
Without Barkley, New York has Matt Breida, 2021 sixth-round pick Gary Brightwell and 2023 fifth-round pick Eric Gray in the backfield. Breida clearly has the most experience of the group, but in six NFL seasons he has never been anything close to a full-time back. His career high snap rate is just 39%.
New York added multiple playmakers to its offense this offseason by trading for Darren Waller, signing Parris Campbell and drafting Jalin Hyatt, but Barkley is still by far the most explosive skill-position player the Giants have. And with Daniel Jones now a highly paid quarterback, the avenues for the Giants to add premier playmakers in the future are about to get slimmer.
If Barkley does eventually sign the tender and play on it this year, he and the Giants may have to go through this whole song and dance again. It's worth noting that a second tag would cost 120% of the first-year tag, meaning Barkley would be due around $12.1 million for the 2024 season if he were to be tagged again. A third tag is extremely cost-prohibitive for teams, so he would likely hit unrestricted free agency after that.
Of course, Barkley is not the only notable Giant who will be hitting free agency next offseason. Starting safety Xavier McKinney (who is extension-eligible now) will be a free agent if not signed to a long-term deal between now and then, and defensive lineman Leonard Williams (whose contract voids after the 2023 season) will be as well. Teams are only able to use the franchise tag on one player, so it's possible that New York will have to make a choice.
Las Vegas Raiders
The Raiders wouldn't be in this situation if they had picked up the fifth-year option on Jacobs' contract last offseason, but his performance through his first three NFL seasons did not really merit them doing so, so it seemed like the right decision at the time. Alas, Jacobs went out and had by far his best year yet and was named a first-team All-Pro. Like Barkley, he is not expected to report to camp on time, and it's been reported that he may not report until very late in the preseason, if at all.
Without Jacobs, Vegas is left with Zamir White and Ameer Abdullah in the backfield. Abdullah has mostly been a third-down back during his career, but White has three-down size at 6-foot and 215 pounds. However, he played just 40 snaps during his rookie season after being selected in the fourth round out of Georgia and carried just 17 times for 70 yards without being targeted or catching a pass.
The Raiders are already transitioning on offense after moving on from Derek Carr and signing Jimmy Garoppolo, as well as trading Waller to New York, drafting his replacement in Michael Mayer, and signing former Patriots wideout Jakobi Meyers. Jacobs led the NFL in touches last season so if he were to actually sit out the offense would have to change pretty dramatically, but again, that is already going to happen.
There aren't many obvious non-Jacobs tag candidates for the Raiders next offseason, so Jacobs could be looking at a second tag if he performs well in 2023 and the sides can't agree on a long-term deal by next March.
Pollard is finally the lead back for the Cowboys after four years of playing behind but out-performing Ezekiel Elliott on a per-touch basis. He signed the franchise tender back in March and participated in both OTAs and minicamp, and it's expected that he will be in training camp as well. (His recovery from a broken leg suffered in Dallas' playoff loss to the 49ers is reportedly going just fine, and he is expected to be ready for Day 1 of camp.)
Pollard is 26 years old and unlike Barkley (1,201 touches) and Jacobs (1,232) he has relatively low tread on his tires (631). He's coming off career highs in rushing attempts (193), yards (1,007), and touchdowns (nine), as well as receptions (39), receiving yards (371), and receiving touchdowns (three). He remains a tackle-breaking machine and an explosive play waiting to happen, but after the disastrous Elliott contract, it's no surprise the Cowboys aren't in a rush to pay his former backup big money over multiple years.
Still, because Pollard was a fourth-round pick while Barkley and Jacobs were first-rounders, the $10.09 million tag represents a significant pay increase to the point that it is nearly triple Pollard's career earnings to date. So, that's a pretty nice payday.
Next year, if Pollard and the Cowboys still don't have a long-term deal, Dallas could be in a bit of a pickle if it also hasn't signed either or both of Trevon Diggs and Terence Steele to extensions. Again, you can only franchise-tag one player. (CeeDee Lamb will be under the fifth-year option for 2024, so the Cowboys have a bit more time to get his extension done.) Micah Parsons will also become extension-eligible next offseason, and we know he is ticketed for a monster deal as well.
Other running backs
The lack of extensions here seems like a bad break for Jonathan Taylor, who is set to be a free agent next offseason.
The franchise tag value is dictated by the value of contracts for players at that position, which is why the running back tag value is the only one that has actually gone down in recent years. If any or all of the three tagged backs had gotten long-term deals this offseason, that would only serve to make future tags more valuable, thus giving backs about to hit free agency a higher starting point to work from. But that didn't happen.
Not only did that not happen, but because it didn't, Taylor is going to hit a crowded free-agent market at the position if he and the Colts don't come to a long-term agreement between now and next March, because it's entirely possible that one or more of Barkley, Jacobs, and Pollard will be joining him on the market. When teams already feel there is a surplus of backs available and suddenly more of them are there for the signing in free agency, it only serves to further depress market value.