INDIANAPOLIS -- It's the question that surrounds the New York Giants in the hallways at the NFL scouting combine: Are they really going to trade running back Saquon Barkley? It has been asked to this reporter too many times to count over the past week.
The Giants are at least open to the possibility. They probably would like to make it happen, but it's not so easy.
Barkley, 25, has been dealing with injuries for most of the past three seasons and has just one year left on his contract at $7.2 million. And what is the price?
A handful of team and league sources were asked what kind of return the Giants could get in a Barkley trade. One general manager suggested a fourth-round pick. That was the best of the projected compensation for the player the Giants drafted second overall in the 2018 NFL draft.
Another executive said a fifth-round pick.
"If you're lucky," he added.
Maybe two fifths, another source estimated.
Not exactly the expected answers for a player who was considered a slam dunk out of Penn State, was the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year in 2018 and seemed destined for a legendary career with the Giants.
But this is where we stand in 2022, with the Giants in a salary-cap crunch (they are $5.5 million over the projected cap), and general manager Joe Schoen trying to shed money. Schoen explained he's "open" to pretty much anything as he tries to reach his goal of cutting $40 million off the cap by the start of free agency on March 16.
Moving Barkley is one way to make a dent. It's not that he can't help them -- the Giants still think he's a really good player -- it's more the situation. Barkley isn't signed past this season, they can't realistically invest in him long term given his injury history, and the Giants need to cut or trade some of the better players from a team that went 4-13 last season.
It puts the team and Barkley in an awkward spot. It's probably in the best interest of both to move on, but Schoen and the Giants must decide at what price it's worth making a deal. Just how desperate are they to create cap space this year? Late-round pick desperate?
So it's not a lock that Barkley gets moved, he's just one of the options, and league sources say he isn't the Giants' top option given the expected compensation. Schoen said the Giants have plans that involve several scenarios to create the cap space he covets.
"The contingency plans: We have A, B, C, D, E. You have to wait for the first shoe to fall before you make the next decision," he said.
The reason trading Barkley is a still a possibility is because teams remain mesmerized by his talent.
Several of the executives surveyed said they would love to have Barkley on their team and take the chance that he stays healthy. The upside is a top-five running back. They still believe he is a really good, potentially great, player in this league.
The Giants agree.
"I think everyone can say, when the kid is healthy he's one of the best backs in the league," Schoen said.
The executives just weren't that excited about the price to acquire him. It would cost $7.2 million of cap space and a draft pick for a player on the last year of his contract. A team would basically be trading for a one-year rental, and not a cheap one.
That is where the hesitation lies, and what drives the compensation into a place that once seemed unfathomable.