The New York Giants face a pivotal decision regarding star running back Saquon Barkley this off-season. After applying the franchise tag last off-season, Barkley has indicated he is unlikely to offer the Giants a hometown discount — he just wants something “fair.”
Another franchise tag might lead to a holdout, complicating matters further.
The Giants find themselves in a challenging position with limited leverage. Barkley may opt to explore free agency in search of a long-term contract with substantial guaranteed money. If tagged again, Barkley would earn $12.4 million for the 2024 season, making his total earnings approximately $22.5 million over two years. However, this scenario lacks long-term security and protection from injury for Barkley.
Giants’ Potential Shift to Draft Strategy
If General Manager Joe Schoen concludes that investing $12.5 million in a running back isn’t the best course, the Giants might turn their attention to the 2024 NFL Draft. This shift would mean losing Barkley’s leadership in the locker room, an important factor that has significantly influenced the team’s dynamic.
In this scenario, the Giants could consider drafting a player like Trey Benson from Florida State. Standing at 6’1″ and weighing 211 pounds, Benson is projected to be available in the late second or early third round. He possesses elite contact balance and the knack for gaining extra yardage, making him a promising prospect.
In the past season, Benson accumulated 906 rushing yards, 227 receiving yards, and 15 total touchdowns. At just 21 years old, he has demonstrated the ability to consistently gain positive yardage and avoid being tackled for a loss.
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Transitioning to a New Running Back Style
Opting for Benson would signify a shift in the Giants’ running back approach. Unlike Barkley, known for his ability to make big plays and evade tacklers with agility, Benson has a more straightforward, north-south running style. He excels at breaking tackles, maintaining good vision upon first contact, and rarely fumbles, as evidenced by his zero fumbles in the 2023 season.
Benson’s affordability as a mid-round pick is another advantage. The Giants could pair him with a cost-effective scatback from free agency, creating a balanced and economical backfield. Benson’s standout trait is his contact balance, enabling him to turn shorter runs into more significant gains. This ability to push through initial contact and keep moving forward is particularly valuable in tight situations.
Drafting Benson in the third round would be a strategic move for the Giants, allowing them to economize at the running back position while transitioning to a younger player. While losing Barkley would be a setback, the Giants must eventually prepare for a future without him. This draft strategy could mark the beginning of that transition.