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‘Things I think’ about Saquon Barkley, New York Giants training camp

Giants will take the field for the first time on Wednesday morning

NFL: JUL 30 New York Giants Training Camp Photo by Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

New York Giants training camp opens Wednesday. With that in mind, here are some ‘things I think’ about camp and the Giants’ 2023 season to come.

Saquon Barkley deal big win for Joe Schoen

With Saquon Barkley signing his franchise tag, everyone involved can claim a win in some way. I think, though, the biggest winner in all of this is Giants general manager Joe Schoen.

Think of all of the things Schoen got in this situation.

  • First of all, Schoen got Barkley to sign and report to training camp on time, avoiding a holdout that likely would have been a massive distraction.
  • He got Barkley at his price. Schoen was reportedly willing to go to $11 million in average annual value on a multi-year deal right before the July 17 franchise tag deadline. Barkley ended up signing the tag with individual and team-oriented incentives reported to be worth an additional $1 million. So, Schoen gets Barkley in 2023 for the price he was willing to pay on a longer deal.
  • Even the incentives are a win for the Giants. Ryan Dunleavy of the New York Post lists the incentives as $303K each for 1,350 yards, 11 touchdowns and 65 receptions. Those are ‘not likely to be earned’ incentives since each stat is higher than what Barkley did in 2022. Also, none of those kick in unless the Giants reach the playoffs.
  • Schoen got to keep the possibility of tagging Barkley again in 2024 available. There has been reporting that Barkley asked for the Giants to promise that they would not tag him for a second time next season, but the running back signed without getting that concession.
  • Schoen would seem to have created enough good will by giving Barkley at least something beyond the $10.091 million franchise tag that the chance of Barkley being a Giant for at least a few more seasons might be better today than it was before the deal was made.
  • Schoen is also a winner because the entire Barkley episode has made it clear that Giants ownership, specifically John Mara, is allowing him to run the football operation the way he sees fit.

Before the July 17 deadline, it would have been easy for Mara and co-owner Steve Tisch to step in and decide that the gap between the Giants offers and Barkley’s demands was so small that they would simply pay it and get a long-term deal done. Whether you consider that a mistake or not, ownership appears to have stayed on the sideline.

Now, Schoen has engineered a compromise that gives both sides at least something to feel good about.

It’s hard not to look at the Giants’ football operation right now and believe it is anything but Schoen’s show.

I think Barkley also gets a win here, although maybe a smaller one.

  • Barkley is not getting the contract we know he wanted. He is, though, at least getting an opportunity to earn more than the slotted tag value. Barkley wanted respect from the Giants, and I think that by not hard-balling him and daring him to refuse to sign the tag they showed him at least a modicum of respect.
  • I think for Barkley, though, the bigger win comes in terms of perception. Barkley said several times in recent months that he did not want to be perceived as “greedy,” and that reports of offers he had turned down were “misleading.” Barkley cares about his reputation. He cares about what people think of him. As I have said before, probably too much. Accepting a compromise deal and getting into training camp on Day 1 erases the idea that he could be called greedy and have his priorities questioned. He will be there for his team, even though we know he would like to be making more money.

In the end, I think both sides got things they wanted.

Other training camp ‘things I think’

  • I think I wish the Giants had consulted me about Wednesday’s schedule. GM Joe Schoen and head coach Brian Daboll meet the media at the bright and early time of 9:15 a.m. ET. That means a 4:30 a.m. wakeup call for yours truly and on the road by 6 a.m. for my 145-mile trek to East Rutherford. I love what I do, but geez. I’m getting old for that stuff.
  • I think this is a huge season for safety Xavier McKinney. McKinney is in the last year of his contract, and he has a lot to prove. Tony DelGenio was absolutely right on the ‘Valentine’s Views’ podcast this week when he said McKinney has been outplayed by Antoine Winfield and Jeremy Chinn, two safeties drafted after him in 2020. McKinney has had one healthy, impact season out of three. GM Joe Schoen did not draft him. I think some trust has been lost between McKinney and the organization after last season’s unnecessary hand injury. If McKinney wants to be a Giant after this season, he needs to earn it.
  • I think Daniel Jones — and the passing offense — are going to look better this time around than they did in the early portions of the 2022 training camp. Jones has a deeper array of weapons, and a second-year in the system. Oh, and I doubt Daboll is going to get away with telling Wink Martindale what plays are coming in an effort to make Jones’ life miserable.
  • I think I hope no one is expecting Tae Banks to play like Sauce Gardner did as a rookie for the New York Jets last season. Gardner was an outlier, and holding Banks to that standard is not fair. I also think I am going to try to use the fact that both Banks and I are Maryland grads to see if I can land a 1-on-1 with Banks, who I know would rather not talk to media at all if he didn’t have to.
  • I think one of the highlights of camp is going to be 1-on-1 drills between rookie center John Michael Schmitz and star defensive tackle Dexter Lawrence. And I think the first time Lawrence knocks Schmitz on his backside, which is inevitable, there will be panic about the rookie center in the Giants fan base.
  • I think I would pay to see Darius Slayton, Parris Campbell, Jalin Hyatt, and Jeff Smith race in the 40-yard dash. I also know it will never happen. It might be fun, but I don’t even want to think about the repercussions if it happened and one of those players tore an Achilles.
  • I think third-round pick Jalin Hyatt will be a factor for the Giants on offense, but I would not expect him to be a dominant player or a high-volume target as a rookie.
  • I think being waived/injured stinks for cornerback Leonard Johnson. Johnson went undrafted in 2022 after tearing an ACL during draft prep. He spent some of his recovery time working as a plumber, and was signed in the spring by the Giants. Now, whatever injury he suffered this time has probably ended his chance to be an NFL player.
  • I think 2021 fourth-round pick Elerson Smith being waived/injured is an appropriate, disappointing end to his time with the Giants. Smith, a tantalizing athlete at 6-foot-7, 255 pounds always seemed to be hurt. He played in only 13 games over two seasons and did not practice all spring. Teams hate to give up on talent, but when that talent can’t get on the field moving on becomes an easy decision.
  • Speaking of injuries, I think I am surprised by the number of players who will begin training on the Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) list for the Giants. I expected wide receivers Sterling Shepard and Wan’Dale Robinson to be on PUP. but six players is more than I anticipated. We’ll see how quickly any of those players gets back to action.
  • I think the Giants bring a much better roster to training camp than they ended the 2022 season with. I think I also understand why most analysts look at the Giants and — on paper — still see the third-best team in the NFC East. There is much work still to be done to get the Giants where they want to go.
  • I think I must be jaded. Or old. Or both. I can’t get excited at all by these player arrival photos. Guys getting out of their vehicles and heading inside the Giants’ does nothing for me.
  • I think it’s sad that there are only nine training camp practices open to the public. Eleven days after camp begins, public access will end. Training camp isn’t what it used to be.