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Saquon Barkley Urges Najee Harris to ‘Beat Me’ in Next Contract

Now Philadelphia Eagles running back Saquon Barkley hopes Najee Harris beats his contract in negotiations on the open market.



Pittsburgh Steelers RB Najee Harris
Steelers RB Najee Harris against the Baltimore Ravens, Jan. 6, 2024 - Ed Thompson / Steelers Now

 Pittsburgh Steelers general manager Omar Khan was pretty much mum on whether the club’s going to place the fifth-year option or ink a long-term teal with running back Najee Harris this offseason. The Steelers have until May 2 to make a decision on the option, and Khan relayed that fact to the media during an interview with reporters at the NFL owner’s meetings on Monday.

“I’m not going to get into specifics about players negotiations, but we still have until the first week of May to make that decision,” Khan said.

Harris’ price tag will come in at $6.790 million since he has not made a Pro Bowl straight-up in the eyes of the league. He was selected to one Pro Bowl, but as an alternate, which does not affect his fifth-year option price tag. But even when that happens, Harris will need to be paid at some point. And with the re-set of the running back market in 2024, guys like Saquon Barkley did well for themselves. And joining the Kelce Brothers on the New Heights Podcast, Barkley lumped in Harris with guys who he hopes get more money than he did.

“That’s your goal, you want to get to a second contract,” Barkley said. “I feel like where I got, it’s like now, Bijan, Jahmyr, Najee, you boys, go beat me. I’m a competitor, I’m trying to go out this year, especially with the situation I’m in now, I’m trying to be the best running back. No questions about it. But let’s push each other. Let’s all drive it.”

Harris, the team’s first-round pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, has produced well in his first three years with the team despite suboptimal conditions given his offensive line play in front of him.

Khan pretty much had the same response in regards to Harris’ contract situation at the NFL Combine back in February.

“We have until the first week in May to make a decision,” Khan said in Indianapolis. “We have a new offensive coordinator, so that’s gonna play into the decision-making process. We’re having conversations with Arthur. It’s been great. We’ve been engaging frequently — coach Tomlin and Arthur and I — we’ve kind of been talking about the offense and what the vision is for it. And we think very highly of Najee and we’ll make the decision before May 2.”

Asked about Najee Harris’ future during his season-ending press conference, Mike Tomlin gushed about the performance of his big back.

“Man, he’s been what we needed him to be,” Tomlin said. “I read a stat, I think you know, he’s 1,000-yard rusher three straight years and how scarce that is. And I just think that speaks to his consistency, availability. He’s been really solid.”

As Tomlin notes, Harris became the first player in Steelers history to run for 1,000 or more yards in each of the first three seasons of his career. He had the best season of his career in terms of yards per carry in 2023. Harris rushed 255 times for 1,035 yards — a 4.1 yards per carry average — and he scored eight touchdowns. Harris had rushed for 3.9 and 3.8 yards per carry one each of his first two seasons.

Second-year back Jaylen Warren ran for 5.3 yards per carry, one of the best figures in the league in 2023. He ran 149 times for 784 yards and four touchdowns. He was also more involved in the passing game, catching 61 passes for 370 yards compared to 29 receptions for 170 yards for Harris. It seems like Arthur Smith will want to keep these two together.