New York Giants running back Saquon Barkley signed a contract Sunday that makes him one of the NFL’s highest paid running backs before he takes a snap in an NFL game.

Barkley, the No. 2 overall pick in April’s NFL Draft out of Penn State, signed a four-year, $31.2 million deal with a $15 million immediate payout and an option for a fifth year. The contracts of rookies taken in the first round are fully guaranteed. Barkley’s immediate payout is one of the largest since the current rookie wage scale was implemented in 2011.

Upon signing his deal, he becomes one of the highest paid running backs in the league, averaging almost $8 million a year. The Pittsburgh SteelersLe’Veon Bell ($14.5 million under the franchise tag), the Atlanta FalconsDevonta Freeman ($8.25 million per year), and the Buffalo BillsLeSean McCoy ($8 million per year) are the only NFL running backs whose average earnings per season tops Barkley.

Barkley’s contract also contains a $20.76 million signing bonus, the highest for an NFL running back since former league MVP Adrian Peterson signed a seven-year, $100 million deal with a $36 million signing bonus with the Minnesota Vikings in 2011. He plans to follow in the footsteps of another running back, the Oakland RaidersMarshawn Lynch, by investing his NFL earnings and live off of his endorsement money.

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“Once I realized when I declared for the NFL Draft and kind of realized where I was going to be drafted, that was something I was like, ‘You know what? Kind of want to follow the Marshawn Lynch method. I don’t want to touch that,” Barkley said on the red carpet for the CC Sabathia and Friends Celebrity Softball Game in June. “I want to invest it, put it in the right people’s hands and learn as I continue to make investments. And just live off the endorsement deals.”

Barkley has endorsement deals with Nike, Pepsi, and Panini America, a sports memorabilia company.

The deal, negotiated by Roc Nation’s Kimberly Miale, took longer than expected because of offset language in the contract. Offset language becomes an issue if a player is cut before the end of his rookie contract. If Barkley is released before the end of his rookie deal and signs with another team, the Giants will not be on the hook for whatever money he is owed.

The Giants knew what they were getting in when they selected Barkley second overall. He was rated as the 2018 draft’s top player regardless of position by many draft observers. Some say he’s the best running back to come out of college since Peterson was selected seventh overall in 2007. Giants general manager Dave Gettleman quipped that Barkley “is touched by the hand of God”.

Barkley’s deal was signed on the day Giants rookies, quarterbacks, and select veterans reported to training camp.

The team also signed their fifth-round pick, defensive tackle R.J. McIntosh, to a four-year, $2.71 million deal. McIntosh, the last Giants 2018 draft pick to sign his rookie deal, has been sidelined with a thyroid condition and will begin training camp on the non-football injury list.

The Giants’ first training camp practice is Monday.

– Curtis Rawls is a Managing Editor for Full Press Coverage and covers the NFL, the New York Giants, and the NBA. Please like and follow on Facebook, Twitter, and Twitter. Curtis can be followed on Twitter @CuRawls203.

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