The Giants played the final 14 games of the 2020 season without running back Saquon Barkley because he tore his ACL against the Bears in Week 2.
His absence cost the Giants a key part of their offense and the offense was awful without him in the lineup. They finished 31st in points scored and yards from scrimmage, but their 6-8 record in those games represents their best run since Barkley joined the team as the second overall pick in the 2018 draft.
It was the second straight year that Barkley missed time with injuries, but neither that history nor the sketchy history of other running backs who have signed long-term deals with their teams has Giants co-owner John Mara rethinking an extended future with the team.
“It was brutal to watch him go down in Week 2,” Mara said at a Wednesday press conference. “He’s such an important part of this team, not only for what he does on the field but the leadership and all of the intangibles he brings to us off the field. That was really a gut-punch. Listen, I’m still happy that we have him. I think knowing him, he’s going to come back stronger than ever and be a big part of this team next year. In terms of what the time table is, it’s hard to predict that right now. I know our medical people are very pleased with the progress he’s made. I certainly expect him to be a Giant for a very long time.”
The Giants don’t have to fulfill that expectation anytime soon. Barkley is eligible for an extension this offseason, but it’s hard to imagine he’ll sign one off such a serious injury. The team has a fifth-year contract option and a franchise tag at its disposal from there, so they’ll have time to be sure Barkley is the player they want him to be before making a serious commitment.