Who will be the the Giants' next face of the franchise?

ByJordan Raanan ESPN logo
Saturday, March 16, 2024

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- The New York Giants were saving their best for last during pregame introductions in the season opener against the Dallas Cowboys. That meant running back Saquon Barkley and quarterback Daniel Jones were the final two players to run out onto the field in the raucous atmosphere.

Their presence was met with enormous applause prior to that Sept. 10 matchup with the Giants' division rival. Barkley and Jones were two of the team's most precious building blocks and the faces of the franchise.

That seems like forever ago. The Giants were embarrassed in that game 40-0 and the season was essentially lost when left tackle Andrew Thomas hurt his hamstring on a blocked field goal that was returned for a touchdown on the opening drive.

In a matter of seven months, Barkley is gone, off to the division-rival Philadelphia Eagles, and Jones' future is murky, at best. It has the Giants searching for a new face of the franchise as general manager Joe Schoen overhauls the roster.

A lot of that now falls on the shoulders of edge rusher Brian Burns, the centerpiece of this offseason who received a $141 million contract after the Giants acquired him via trade from the Carolina Panthers.

"Oh, definitely. Definitely excited about that," Burns said. "I can't really speak too much on it because I've never been in that situation, but I'm definitely excited about prime-time games and whatnot."

As things currently stand, the Giants' best players aside from Burns are Thomas and defensive tackle Dexter Lawrence II. But Lawrence is a nose tackle and Thomas is an offensive lineman. Burns has the potential to be the next great pass-rusher for a franchise that has won in the past because they beat up quarterbacks.

So Schoen has a lot riding on Burns, and that is why they made such a hefty investment to acquire his services. They needed to reshape this team.

Barkley and safety Xavier McKinney were two of the Giants' best players during the past few years, but Schoen chose to let them walk and invest elsewhere.

When he was asked earlier this month whether he was looking at the Barkley negotiations from the perspective of the market value or from Barkley's value to the team, Schoen didn't hesitate.

"Running back market value," he said.

The Giants, with so many holes on the roster, didn't see value in investing in a running back at over $10 million per season.

The Eagles gave Barkley a three-year, $37.75 million deal with $26 million guaranteed. That was more guaranteed money than the Giants offered at any point during the past few years of negotiations.

Schoen and the Giants never even made an offer to Barkley this offseason, a source told ESPN. They instead signed former Houston Texans running back Devin Singletary to a deal worth just over $5 million per season.

They chose to invest in the offensive line instead. The Giants signed guard Jon Runyan at $10 million per season and right tackle/ guard Jermaine Eluemunor for another $7 million per year. They will also add another veteran guard in free agency.

In the meantime, it puts the Giants in a strange spot without a real face of the franchise. Schoen's bet is on Burns and his next quarterback. He put a lot of money, and faith, on it.

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