The New York Giants will face the New Orleans Saints this week, in another game that could have profound impacts on the future of their franchise — starting in 2024. The team is in the odd position of owning the eighth overall pick in the 2024 NFL draft, while also being (potentially) one game out of the playoffs with a 5-8 record.
The Giants’ immediate concern is the Saints, but they also have to start considering several questions in the 2024 offseason. One of the biggest is a lingering question from 2023: What should they do about Saquon Barkley?
The Giants and Barkley attempted to agree on a long-term contract over the spring and summer but failed to do so. That ultimately led to some drama as the Giants used the franchise tag, with Barkley signing a modified and incentive-laden version of the tag.
The two sides are adamant that they don’t want to part, but also adamant that they need to come to an acceptable agreement. And that’s where things get complicated.
To make the case for Barkley, he isn’t your run-of-the-mill running back. He has rare athleticism that allows him greater control over his productivity (ie: he can turn a blown play into a positive gain by “out-athlete-ing” defenders). He is also one of the Giants’ most dynamic offensive weapons regardless of position.
The Giants have leaned heavily on Barkley this year. Of the team’s 804 offensive plays, 229 have gone Barkley’s way. That’s 28 percent of the Giants’ offense running through Barkley — Despite him missing four games due to injury.
And, frankly, Barkley is the face of the Giants’ franchise and one of the leaders in their locker room. He was one of the first and most outspoken players to publicly throw his support behind Tommy DeVito. That likely helped the rookie’s confidence at a time when few outside the organization thought he should even be on the field.
On the flip side of things, teams have some good reasons to resist paying any running back big money.
Running backs have been devalued over the last decade or so, with teams finding contributors down draft boards, in undrafted free agency, and low-cost free agents. Running backs typically have shorter windows of productivity than other positions, and higher injury rates, and their production is highly dependent on factors outside of their control.
Much of a runner’s production is decided before he even takes the hand-off by things like field position, offensive personnel, and blocking up front. For the Giants specifically, the resources spent on Barkley might be better used bolstering their offensive line and filling out their receiving corps. Better blocking and forcing teams to truly fear their passing game would make life easier for any running back.
There’s also the injury question and Barkley’s significant injury history in the NFL. He suffered a hamstring injury in his rookie training camp, a high ankle sprain in 2019, a torn ACL and sprained MCL in 2020, and ankle sprains in 2021 and 2023.
So, SB Nation Reacts wants to know what fans think the Giants should do about Barkley:
- Should they do whatever it takes to keep him in Blue long-term?
- Should they attempt to come to a short-term agreement to mitigate the risk of injury and long-term cap implications, but understand that Barkley might not agree to such a deal?
- Should they let him test free agency?
Welcome to SB Nation Reacts, a survey of fans across the NFL. Throughout the year we ask questions of the most plugged-in New York Giants fans and fans across the country. Sign up here to participate in the weekly emailed surveys.