Saquon Barkley publicly mulls Le’Veon Bell-style holdout after Giants extension talks fall through

Saquon Barkley’s extension talks with the New York Giants are officially over. His lone options left range from playing out the season on the $10.1 million franchise tag to the nuclear option.

In this case, the nuclear option would be refusing to sign the franchise tag and refusing to play the season, much like Le’Veon Bell did back in 2018 when the Pittsburgh Steelers franchise tagged him for the second time.

That famously didn’t work out well for Bell, who has since admitted he regrets the decision, but Barkley indicated in an interview on “The Money Matters” podcast published Monday that he was considering it.

He didn’t seem enthusiastic about the idea, but he said it’s something he might have to do:

“My leverage is I could say, ‘F*** you’ to the Giants, I could say, ‘F*** you’ to my teammates. And be like, ‘You want me to show you my worth? You want me to show you how valuable I am to the team? I won’t show up. I won’t play a down.’ And that’s a play I could use.

“Anybody knows me, knows that’s not something I want to do. But is it something that’s crossed my mind? I never thought I would ever do that, but now I’m at a point where it’s like, ‘Jesus, I might have to take it to this level.’ Am I prepared to take it to the level? I don’t know. That’s something I got to sit down and talk to my family, I got to sit down and talk to my team. Got to really strategize about this. Can’t just go off of emotions. “

Barkley isn’t the only running back in this position, as Josh Jacobs of the Las Vegas Raiders is also facing a season played on the franchise tag after leading the NFL in rushing yards last season.

Barkley and Jacobs could conceivably hold out of training camp before reporting for the regular season. They could also refuse to sign the tag as the season begins, which would cost them about $561,000 per game. They would have to sign by the franchise tender deadline in November or miss the entire season, as Bell did.

PHILADELPHIA, PENNSYLVANIA - JANUARY 21: Saquon Barkley #26 of the New York Giants walks off the field after losing to the Philadelphia Eagles 38-7 in the NFC Divisional Playoff game at Lincoln Financial Field on January 21, 2023 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images)

Saquon Barkley still has options in his negotiations with the Giants, but they aren’t pleasant for himself either. (Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images)

A collection of notable running backs aren’t liking what they’re seeing. It’s a situation that has simmered for years and now seems to have reached a boiling point as running backs struggle to expand their market while seemingly every other position is signing record deals, with no solutions in reach until the next CBA negotiation.

In the case of Bell, he held out the whole season, at which point the Steelers declined to tag him, allowing him to sign with the New York Jets on a four-year, $52.5 million contract with $35 million guaranteed. On a related note, there is no running back in the NFL with more than $35 million fully guaranteed, per OverTheCap.

The Jets released Bell a season and a half later.