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Saquon Barkley’s suggestion he could sit out the upcoming season — which is obviously nonsensical — was the big headline. But that was not the critical moment of his Sunday night grievance-airing with the Giants press corps.

Barkley lamented “misleading” reports he said painted him as “greedy.” He denied a desire to reset the running back market. And he made it clear he feels disrespected by the Giants.

The Daily News’ Pat Leonard then asked the question that, amazingly, remains unanswered eight months after contract negotiations began and three after Barkley got the franchise tag.

Is part of it that the guaranteed money in those alleged offers is not close to what the numbers portray?

In other words, did the Giants lowball Barkley on the only aspect of a long-term deal that means anything in the NFL?

Um, I’m not going to get too much into the contract details. But like I said, some of the stories are misleading. I said I’m not trying to reset the market, I said I wanted to be a Giant for life. So I’ll let you guys read between the lines for that.

We have been doing that for some time. And our conclusion remains the same: It sure feels like Barkley and his representation botched the negotiations.

We take Barkley at his implied word the Giants are playing fast and loose with just how solid the average annual value of their offers were. Although we are not sure why he seems so offended. The AAV of almost every NFL contract of note is built on phony-baloney math. And the teams engage in this practice largely to placate the egos and marketing needs of agents and scratch the back of the scoop merchants — all at the detriment of players.


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But it is hard to believe Giants general manager Joe Schoen would waste his time trying to put the screws to Barkley with guaranteed money. Offering him deals that match or barely eclipse the $22 million in guaranteed money he would get on back-to-back tags in 2023 and ’24 would be pointless. And if Schoen did that, it is even harder to imagine Barkley’s camp would not have rushed the dirt to a friendly reporter. Or that a clearly angry Barkley would have danced around the direct inquiry like he did.

What seems likely from our vantage point: The Giants offered Barkley something north of Derrick Henry’s $25 million in guaranteed money at signing but south of Christian McCaffrey’s $30 million. Barkley and his team played with fire and pushed to get closer to McCaffrey. And then they got burned when quarterback Daniel Jones beat the tag deadline buzzer with his new deal.

(Also: While we are discussing respect, we would offer the Giants may be showing Barkley a great deal of it by keeping the guaranteed money numbers under their hat. Because leaking it might make Barkley’s handling of the situation look even worse.)

So what now? Nothing has changed. The Giants hold all the leverage, save one weapon still at Barkley’s disposal: His physical presence, or lack thereof.

Unless Barkley completely caves, it does not make much business sense for the Giants to give him a multi-year deal this summer. But Barkley can make things uncomfortable if he refuses to sign his tender by the start of training camp. Or if he stays on the beach for the whole thing. He’s going to play this season, but he does not need to show up until a few days before Week 1 to do so.

There would be risk. Barkley’s image might take a hit, and you could argue an injury-prone player should not jump into another contract year without camp under his belt. But if he’s that mad — even though all logic suggests he is to blame for the most part — how else can he express himself?

James Kratch can be reached at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @jameskratch.

James Kratch is the managing editor of ESNY. He previously worked as a Rutgers and Giants (and Mike Francesa) beat reporter for NJ Advance Media.