EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — At the start of the 2022 season, which isn’t as far away as it seems, Saquon Barkley will be 25 years old in the final year of his rookie contract. Odell Beckham Jr. will still have two years left on his contract, but in November of that season, he will turn 30.
Given the incredible talent of those two players, it’s hard to imagine any team not at least competing for a championship with both of them on its roster, especially in their primes. So consider the 2022 season the end of a four-year window that will begin for the Giants this offseason. They have to do whatever they can to win a title in the next four seasons before their days with Beckham and Barkley together are gone.
That’s why the next decisions they make — especially at quarterback — are so crucial. And it’s why moving on from Eli Manning right now could prove to be too unwise and too hard.
The Giants, to put it another way, can’t get involved in a long rebuilding project, no matter how much work they need to do on their roster. They can’t be the Jets, who are free to take their time as they groom a 21-year-old quarterback. The Jets are looking at a 10-year window to win behind Sam Darnold. They have no internal pressure to win it all right now.
It’s different for the Giants. That’s why even if Oregon’s Justin Herbert hadn’t decided to return to school in 2019, or even if this wasn’t considered a down year for NFL-ready quarterbacks in the draft, the Giants couldn’t turn things over to a rookie next season. It takes three years, often more, for a rookie quarterback to fight through the growing pains, to reach the point where he could conceivably be considered championship-caliber.
The Giants would be wasting the prime of Barkley and Beckham if they had to wait that long — all in the hopes that they’ve picked the right quarterback and he could put it together in time for one run.
The much more logical approach would be to go with a proven veteran who has done it before and can do it again. There are rarely quarterbacks like that available on the market, though this year there could be two potential options in Teddy Bridgewater and Nick Foles.
Both of them come with issues, though. Bridgewater, while only 26, hasn’t completed an NFL pass since 2015 due to a devastating knee injury that cost him two full seasons. And before that, he wasn’t a championship-caliber quarterback. He had potential, but he was average, at best.
Foles will soon be 30, but he’s a safer option who had one electric season with the Eagles (in 2013, with current Giants coach Pat Shurmur as his offensive coordinator), and one brilliant playoff run last year. But in between, he ranged from average to awful as he made his way from Philadelphia to the Rams, to the Chiefs, and back to Philly again.
With that four-year Barkley/Beckham window, is it worth it for the Giants to take a chance that Bridgewater’s knee will hold up and he’ll realize his potential, or that they’ll end up with the Super Bowl version of Foles?
Those are risks that maybe a different team could afford. And that’s what the Giants need to remember this offseason. They don’t have time to see how everything plays out. They don’t have a lot of years left to build their franchise into a contender. The reality is their window won’t be open long, and it’ll be even shorter if the 38-year-old Manning really is their best option.
So they have to take advantage of the Barkley-Beckham tandem now, while they’re lucky enough to have them both on the roster. The Giants believe both of them are generational talents. And it would be a shame if they let that generation go to waste.