Saquon Barkley said his “eyes got big” when he was sitting at the lunch table in the cafeteria in the Giants’ practice facility and first saw the huge numbers on Ezekiel Elliott’s new contract come across the television screen.
But not for the reason you would think.
Barkley said he was happy for Elliott and happy to have the Cowboys running back on the field rather than holding out as the regular season begins, but gave no thought to how the extension for his Dallas counterpart will impact his own future business dealings with the Giants (or other teams).
“It really doesn’t cross your mind because it’s so far away,” Barkley said. “I have to God willing get to that point, I have to stay healthy and continue to try to do special things for this team. That’s not really my mindset. My mindset when I saw it was happy and congratulations to Zeke. It’s awesome. It’s a great deal. He’s getting a lot of money, he’s getting paid, which I think he deserves because he’s a tremendous player.”
Is it far away, though? Barkley is entering only his second NFL season and he does have a $32.2 million rookie contract that is fully guaranteed. He is signed for this season and the next two with a team option for 2022. It feels like he is just getting started. But he is only two years behind Elliott in terms of career footsteps. And if Barkley continues to play and produce at the pace he posted in his rookie season, it’s not inconceivable that he start asking for a raise or an extension in the next year or two.
Eliiott may be the highest paid running back in the NFL now, but Barkley will almost certainly top it. Many believe Barkley might even become the first running back in NFL history to sign a $100 million deal.
None of that was on Barkley’s mind when Elliott’s numbers came out, though. At least that’s what he insisted.
“You don’t want to see a situation like Le’Veon Bell,” Barkley said of the current Jets running back who sat out all of last season with the Steelers. “LeVeon is a talented player, a talented running back, and you want to see that guy play. Especially for me. Not only do I play the position, I’m a fan of the position. And I love competition, I love seeing what those guys are doing throughout the year and checking up on them and texting those guys. More happy and excited for him to get the deal done and be able to come back.”
Barkley said the fact that Elliott will play against the Giants in Week 1 gives him no added motivation.
“It doesn’t matter if he is there or not,” Barkley said. “As a competitor would I rather him be there? Yes. I’m not gonna lie. But more motivation? I think sitting out four preseason games and just watching my team play is enough motivation for me to get out there and play.”
Sharing a field on Sunday will, however, give Barkley a chance to express his feelings about Elliott and the contract to the running back in person. For now, he’s just relying on the media to carry the message.
Barkley looked right in a camera in front of his locker and said: “Zeke, if you are seeing this, congratulations on the deal. That’s amazing.”