ARLINGTON, TEXAS - SEPTEMBER 08: Saquon Barkley #26 of the New York Giants is seen on the field before the game against the Dallas Cowboys at AT&T Stadium on September 08, 2019 in Arlington, Texas.
(Photo by Richard Rodriguez/Getty Images)

Legendary New York Jets running back Curtis Martin thinks the New York Giants should employ Saquon Barkley for the long haul.

The speed. The power. The versatility.

Saquon Barkley carries each of the aforementioned qualities when stepping onto the football field and is a threat wherever he is.

This is why the New York Giants must extend their Pro Bowl running back’s contract before his current four-year rookie deal expires. And of course, this isn’t an uncommon opinion.

“When you have a threat like that, he’s just a move or a broken tackle away from a big play every time he touches the ball,” legendary New York Jets running back Curtis Martin told Steve Serby of the New York Post. “He’s probably one of the most dangerous guys in the NFL with the ball in his hand.

“You just have to keep guys like that around.”

Recent running back contracts should give Barkley a ballpark estimate of what he may desire in his eventual second NFL deal. In September 2019, Cowboys star running back Ezekiel Elliott inked a six-year, $90 million extension. More recently — this past April, to be exact — Panthers back Christian McCaffrey signed a four-year, $64 million extension, a deal that makes him the highest-paid running back in league history.

Barkley, with the exception of a stretch last year in which he was evidently playing through an injury, has been sensational. During his rookie campaign, the former Penn State Nittany Lion racked up 1,307 yards and 11 touchdowns on the ground while gaining 721 yards through the air with four touchdown receptions. His 2,028 scrimmage yards led the league that year, and simply speaking, the young back has done, and will continue to do, what needs to be done in order to earn that significant payday.

“When you take care of guys who deserve it, I think it sets a precedent,” Martin said. “It can set the standard and people come to understand like, ‘OK, if you want to make the money, this is what you have to do, you have to perform this way, you have to be committed, you have to be dedicated, you have to work hard. I just think it sends the right message, especially for a guy who’s not even in his prime yet.

“You definitely want to take care of guys like that.”

Barkley is poised to develop even more this upcoming year, playing behind a line that improved this offseason with the selection of offensive tackle Andrew Thomas in April’s draft.

No. 26 is the team’s top player, which I guess may not be saying a whole lot considering that team has won just nine games since drafting him. But nevertheless, he’s a star, and somebody will snatch him if the Giants don’t deliver.

“You’re not going to get it right all the time,” Martin said. “But the only thing you can do is go on a track record, and at the end of the day, I think as a GM, as an owner, if you don’t pay this guy, someone’s going to pay Saquon. Saquon’s different.”

“Different” is the correct word choice.

The ball will be in your court, Big Blue. Make it happen.

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