Great vision on the field is required to become a great running back.
Saquon Barkley has this.
There is another sort of vision that is clouding the ongoing contract impasse between Barkley and the Giants.
What once felt like a far-off deadline — 4 p.m. on July 17 — is rapidly approaching.
By 4 p.m. Monday, players designated with the franchise tag must either sign a multiyear contract with the team or else play on the one-year tag, which, for Barkley, is $10.1 million for the 2023 season.
If there is no deal Monday, Barkley is not expected to immediately sign the tender, which would lead to a training camp holdout.
The other option for Barkley is to leave the tag unsigned and sit out the season, which is a pathway littered with peril and not an option Barkley is expected to take.
Here is where the different sort of vision kicks in.
Barkley understands the position of running back has been devalued around the NFL, where the Raiders’ Josh Jacobs, the league rushing leader last season with 1,653 yards, was also hit with the franchise tag, and Dalvin Cook, sixth among running backs in 2022 with 1,173 yards for the Vikings, is currently unemployed.
Barkley, a team captain, unquestioned team leader and the Giants’ most exciting player, sees himself — his vision of himself — defined not by the position he plays.
“I feel like I’m more than that,’’ Barkley said back on June 11 at his football camp in Jersey City. “I feel we finally got to a place where we’re a successful team. We got to start winning games, and I was a big part of that.”
Joe Schoen, the general manager, does not question this.
He values Barkley as a player and as a person and for his desire to be a Giant for life.
The vision Schoen has for Barkley, though, does not shred the reality of what the market is bearing for running backs.
Miles Sanders, a former teammate of Barkley’s at Penn State, led the 2022 Eagles with 1,269 rushing yards and now is with the Panthers on a four-year deal averaging $6.3 million annually.
The Giants are prepared to pay Barkley, 26, as one of the top running backs in the league.
Their latest offer nudged past an average of $13 million per year but the guaranteed portion of the deal ($19.5 million) was not rich enough for Barkley.
If the two sides cannot agree on suitable compensation, the Giants are content to have Barkley play on the tag of $10.1 million and then revisit his contract situation after the season, when they will once again have the option to secure Barkley with the franchise tag, this time for $12 million.
Given the nature of these talks, it would be no surprise if it comes down to the wire.
There was great urgency from the Giants to get a long-term deal done with quarterback Daniel Jones and that negotiation went down to the final minutes before Jones was locked in on a four-year deal worth $160 million.
The urgency from the Giants with Barkey is not as intense.
Barkley, the No. 2-overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft, passed the test in 2022, as far as impressing Schoen and a new head coach Brian Daboll, imports from the Bills who arrived with no allegiance to Barkley.
He rushed for a career-high 1,312 yards and, most importantly, he remained healthy for the entire season, after missing three games in 2019 (high ankle sprain), 14 games in 2020 (torn ACL) and four games in 2021 (low ankle sprain).
Indeed, he was an integral part of the winning formula Daboll concocted in his first year on the job.
There is no denying the Giants need Barkley’s excellence as a runner and pass-catcher.
There is also no denying Barkley playing on the one-year franchise tag could lead to all sorts of negative vibes and potential pitfalls.
With no commitment beyond this season, Barkley would need to put up big numbers to sway the Giants or another possible suitor for his next contract.
Any ache, pain, injury or drop in production becomes a topic of conversation.
It is not the ideal way for a player of Barkley’s stature to move through a season.
Barkley is upset that the offers made by the Giants leaked out to the media, which, in his view, made him appear greedy.
Discord of this nature has a way of dissipating after a contract agreement is reached.
As far as Barkley going DEFCON 1 and sitting out the season, his pride might make that scenario tempting but a) he would forfeit $10.1 million, a financial loss he would be hard-pressed to make up down the road and b) he values his teammates too much to bail on them.
Barkley not signing the tag and not reporting to training camp July 25 is a real possibility.
Might co-owner John Mara, who spoke with Jones before his deal got done, intervene again, this time with Barkley, a player admired by the entire organization?