‘Hard Knocks’ details Giants’ pitch to Saquon Barkley, approach to adding a QB

New York Giants general manager Joe Schoen wanted to keep Saquon Barkley, but he also wanted to make sure he wasn’t paying him too much relative to the running back market.

The second episode of “Hard Knocks: Offseason with the New York Giants” detailed how Schoen approached contract negotiations with Barkley once the team ruled out franchise-tagging him for a second straight year. Throughout the episode, Schoen discussed his desire to keep Barkley at good value while wrestling with the delicate nature of not making an offer that he might view as insulting.

During the NFL Scouting Combine, Schoen provided the gist of his Barkley pitch in a discussion with assistant general manager Brandon Brown.

“Hey, here is our price,'” Schoen said he would tell Barkley. “You want your name up here forever? Two more years, you’re in the Ring of Honor. Or you want a million dollars more to go somewhere else?”

Schoen discussed his pitch with Brown again over the phone on March 5, eight days prior to free agency. As Schoen was worried about making Barkley feel “disrespected” with an initial offer, Brown gave him a tough but simple question to answer.

“When you’re in your room at night when you’re by yourself, are you like, ‘I wouldn’t mind if this kid bounced?'” Brown asked.

Schoen continued to focus on contract value in his response to Brown.

“I think he can still play, but you have to get the value right,” Schoen said as he referred to a running back’s production falling off at age 27. “You look at the data. The data is what it is.”

When Schoen’s conversation with Brown ended, he called Barkley to let him know that the team would let him hit the open market. 

“Just mulling over this, the right thing to do is let you test the market to see what your value is,'” Schoen told Barkley. “Um, I don’t want to do the franchise [tag] thing or all that stuff again. I don’t want to go through that. We’ve both been through that. If you really want to be a Giant for life and you’re interested in coming back, see what your market is and have [agent] Ed [Berry] come back to us and we’ll see if we can come to an agreement.”

“All right, I appreciate that,” Barkley responded.

Schoen pressed Barkley a bit further on trying to ensure that New York would get a chance to match whatever offer he got.

“Can you give me your word on that, or you not going to give us a chance?” Schoen asked. 

“What do you mean, like circling back?” Barkley responded.

“Yeah,” Schoen said.

“I mean, I already told you where I want to be, so …,” Barkley replied.

Schoen ended the call hopeful that Barkley would circle back, though the GM also recognized that it might have been his final conversation with the running back as a member of the Giants.

“Let’s do that, we’ll go out and see what the market says,” Schoen said. “I think it’s the right thing to do. I love ya, man. I appreciate everything you did for the organization and in the two years I was here. I’m not saying we’re not going to get something done, but I think it’s right that, if for some reason it doesn’t work out, the organization thinks the world of you and everything you’ve done.”

Barkley wound up agreeing to a three-year, $37.75 million deal with $26 million guaranteed with the Philadelphia Eagles when free agency opened. The episode didn’t show whether the Giants had a chance to match the offer or not.

Much of the second episode was focused on the Giants’ approach to evaluating and interviewing prospects at the combine. As the team interviewed a handful of the top quarterback prospects in Indianapolis, Schoen admitted in another conversation that he was seeking to add a second quarterback due to Daniel Jones’ injury situation.

“The reality of the situation is, Daniel’s coming off an ACL,” Schoen said. “If he can’t go Week 1, somebody’s gotta be able to win some games. We can’t start off 0-3 until he gets healthy. I need to get a backup quarterback that can be available or we look to draft one.” 

The episode showed the team’s interviews with Caleb Williams, Jayden Daniels, Drake Maye and J.J. McCarthy at the combine. Head coach Brian Daboll seemed to lead each one, quizzing the QBs on their favorite plays to run and how they’d handle certain situations. 

Some time during combine week, Schoen determined that the Giants would be interested in trading up in the draft, presumably to pick a quarterback. As a result, he made a trip to the New England Patriots’ suite at Lucas Oil Stadium to start preliminary discussions about acquiring the third overall pick.

“Just do this for me, if you guys are going to do anything at three — move out at all, you don’t need to tell me your plan or anything — but if you have any inkling, just call me,” Schoen told Eliot Wolf, who was the Patriots’ de facto general manager at the time.

The episode also showed the organization’s initial thoughts and conversations with Malik Nabers, the LSU wide receiver that the Giants wound up selecting with the sixth pick in the draft.

“Malik, highly passionate, highly competitive kid, loves football,” an area scout said in a team meeting ahead of the combine. “He will train hard, plays with a big-time chip on his shoulder. … You’ll hear about it if he does not get his targets. We need to get around this kid and see if we can work with him, because there is a lot to his personality.”

Ahead of the meeting with Nabers, Daboll told Schoen called the wide receiver a “baller” after watching tape on him. The Giants coach asked the receiver how he’d handle not getting the ball early in games during his interview.

“I handle it pretty tough,” Nabers admitted.

“That’s what I’m looking for,” Daboll said. “I don’t mind that. I want guys that want to get the ball. I want guys that hate f—ing losing. But you’ve got to learn how to harness that a little bit.”

Following the meeting, Schoen told Brown that he thought Nabers was “going to come off with a lot more edge” in his interview due to his playing style. He revealed though that Jones “loves him” as a prospect.

The team also spoke with Marvin Harrison Jr., which included a moment where Giants wide receivers coach Mike Groh ripped a pass thrown by former Ohio State quarterback Kyle McCord.

“You’ve got a young guy, he’s growing in the position, you beat a guy like this and got a chance for a touchdown,” Groh said while watching film with Harrison. “He underthrows it. What are you coming back to the huddle saying to him?”

“Honestly, nothing to quarterbacks,” Harrison said. “I don’t say nothing to quarterbacks.”

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