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Will Saquon Barkley hold out? All options on the table for Giants RB after contract talks sputter

Saquon Barkley failed to reach a contract extension with the Giants ahead of Monday’s deadline for franchise tagged players, and he’s not ready to quickly let the matter go.

Between a cryptic tweet and recent comments that revealed his frustration, Barkley’s dissatisfaction with his contract has fans wondering whether the star running back will hold out of training camp — or even into the regular season.

Barkley was an afterthought for the Giants in the seasons leading up to 2022, tearing his ACL in 2020 and struggling just to hit 500 rushing yards in 2021. But he bounced back in a big way last year with 1,312 rushing yards, 10 touchdowns on the ground and 1,650 yards from scrimmage for a resurgent New York team.

That performance was enough to give the former No. 2 pick some leverage. The Giants used their $10.1 million franchise tag on Barkley, a bump in pay compared to 2022 — but not the salary he was looking for.

MORE: RBs respond after Saquon Barkley, Josh Jacobs fail to reach long-term deals

Here’s what you need to know about whether a holdout is on the horizon for Barkley.

Will Saquon Barkley hold out?

Barkley hinted he is considering holding out, but admitted he’s not sure whether he’s prepared to take his protest that far.

During an appearance on “The Money Matters Podcast” — which was recorded before the extension deadline passed — Barkley said, “My leverage is I could say ‘F— you’ to the Giants, I could say, ‘F— you’ to my teammates, and be like, ‘You want me to show you my worth? I won’t show up. I won’t play a down.'”

Barkley made it clear that the scenario is far from the only one on the table.

“Anybody who knows me knows that’s not something I want to do,” he said. “But now I’m at a point where it’s like, ‘Jesus, I might have to take it to this level.'”

Barkley explained that he plans to sit down with his family and strategize about the situation rather than make an emotional decision. He added that winning a Super Bowl with the Giants matters “miles more” than any contract, which will put Giants fans at ease a bit.

IYER: Why RBs aren’t underpaid under the franchise tag

What might prevent a holdout is the fact Barkley can’t exactly turn his leverage into a new contract. At least, not immediately. Since the deadline for franchise-tagged players to sign an extension has passed, the Giants can’t give Barkley a new deal until after the season.

Any holdout wouldn’t end with a lucrative extension and triumphant return like Aaron Donald’s protest did in 2018. By holding out, the best Barkley can do is send a message, and perhaps show the Giants his value if he were to sit out regular season games.

In this difficult market for running backs, turning a year older and burning his bridge with the Giants may not produce the results Barkley wants. It’s clear, however, the Penn State product’s frustration isn’t going away.

As running backs around the league show their discontent, could Barkley be the one to send a message by staying off the field this season? That decision will hang over the Giants until further notice.

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