This is now Saquon Barkley’s team.
No franchise tag. No offer of a new contract. No desperate pleas to keep one of the game’s top safeties and try to fit him onto the roster. Collins is gone and becomes one of the biggest prizes now in the free agent market.
A casualty of their tight salary-cap picture, the decision to let Collins walk leaves the Giants needing an identity. Collins, a leader on this team and a three-time Pro Bowl selection in his first four years in the league, was set to be that face. Now it must be Barkley.
The Giants’ running back should take over the mantle because he is the cornerstone of this franchise. It was evidenced by last year’s performance en route to winning NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year and being named to the Pro Bowl. Barkley is a special talent. His numbers carrying the ball and catching passes out of the backfield justified in every way his selection as the second overall pick in last April’s NFL Draft.
He is a workout warrior and a quiet leader. Off the field and on it, Barkley does the right things. This makes him this team’s biggest voice. He is undoubtedly the face of this franchise.
Other options, such as quarterback Eli Manning or defensive end Oliver Vernon won’t be with the franchise longer than past next year. Odell Beckham Jr. is locked into a long-term contract, but is the star wide receiver ready to take on that responsibility of being the team leader?
It must be Barkley who this team will be built on.
Collins was beyond rock-steady. He was a sure-thing nearly every Sunday, a gamer who gutted it out the past two years despite injuries. He led in the locker room, the weight room and the film room.
His loss to this team can’t be overemphasized.
All of which means that Barkley is now the great hope of this team, especially with Collins packed up in a trash bag and already out of the locker room. New York is an unforgiving sports town .. .an unforgiving town, period.
Time for Barkley as he enters his second year in the NFL to acknowledge that this team and the entire organization rests on his broad, chiseled shoulders. He is the future of the Giants now. As he runs, so goes this team.