Saquon Barkley is facing a career-defining moment in Dallas

Saquon Barkley is hoping for bigger occasions to come and, oh, wouldn’t the New York Giants just be glad for that to be true.

For now, though, this is it. This game, this celebration, this showdown with the Dallas Cowboys, it’s worthy of a description — drum roll please — that deserves its own sentence.

The most important game of Barkley’s career.

The Giants running back is a phenomenon and a joy, a force of powerful, intelligent rushing and one of the main reasons Big Blue fans feel significantly better about life than they usually do at this point in the season.

Brian Daboll one on one

Ahead of a crucial trip to Dallas, Giants coach Brian Daboll sits down with Erin Andrews to talk about his first season.

The problem is this: Just when things are rolling along nicely and Brian Daboll’s team is giving glimpses of a potentially glorious future, a monumental franchise decision has to be made — and it all revolves around Barkley.

At the end of this season, the 25-year-old rookie’s contract expires. He is currently playing out his fifth-year option. The choice is plentiful. There may be more than one correct solution. Maybe there aren’t any. Either way, the Giants front office knows this is on the clock and on the hot seat, as how this development is handled will either please or infuriate fans.

The Giants are allowed to franchise tag Barkley and could do so twice, for a total of about $27 million.

New York could offer Barkley a new deal where the asking price would surely put him among the highest-paid RBs of all time, with the potential to better the $64 million over four years the Carolina Panthers gave Christian McCaffrey before he eventually be distributed to San Francisco.

Or they could let him go, a prospect that can only be contemplated because of the disagreement over the topic of how much you should pay your star to come back — and for how long.

There were discussions between the Giants and Barkley’s representatives during the bye week, which was designated as a self-imposed and artificial deadline by the organization for any contractual finalizations, but things did not get signed.

But this is it. Right here. A great performance against the Cowboys, especially in a win, and Barkley could be close to writing his own check. Because the Giants have waited a long time for this kind of occasion, a monumental Thanksgiving Day battle, no less, with divisive factors and plenty of playoff implications.

If he performs, if he comes up with a great Turkey Day menu for them in Dallas (4:30 p.m. ET on FOX and the FOX Sports App) that Giants fans will remember every year to come when it’s time to stuff and fix and caloric surplus, it will be impossible to imagine life without it.

If not, there may be a different result. If something like what happened against the Detroit Lions last week happens again, the narrative will be different. As the Lions pulled to within 31-18 in East Rutherford, N.J., Barkley — who entered the game as the NFL’s leading rusher — was held to 22 yards on 15 carries.

Barkley bounces

Barkley bounces

Saquon Barkley sat down with Michael Strahan earlier this season to talk about how he managed to have a successful season.

If this is the beginning of a decline in the Giants’ fortunes, Barkley’s case for piles of cash will have weakened, and not a little.

“This is as compelling as a Thanksgiving game we’ve had in years because of what it means to both teams,” FS1’s Nick Wright said on “First Things First.”

“If the Giants lose, it could fall apart quickly. When you look at what the Giants have the rest of the season, they have a brutal rest of the road. In the game, they go from 7-2 to missing the playoffs.. It could go sideways.”

New York has the toughest remaining schedule in the NFL, with two games against the red-hot Washington Commanders, two more against the 9-1 Philadelphia Eagles and another against the 8-2 Minnesota Vikings.

Having so much on the line against an opponent like Dallas (7-3, same as Giants) adds an extra layer. The Cowboys were superb on defense and will prepare to get healthy and physical.

Edge Rusher Micah Parsons said recently that to stay motivated, he only likes to be around people who “tell me I’m badass.” He doesn’t, not even close, so he’ll probably be pretty lonely.

It’s a nice matchup, but an ugly one to lose for whoever is on the wrong end, as they’ll be deadlocked in a season where 7-4 isn’t really helpful in the resurgent NFC East.

It’s a showdown between two teams looking for more — and a running back who has one game to turn on the magic and maybe get everything he wants.

Martin Rogers is a columnist for FOX Sports and contributor to the FOX Sports Insider newsletter. You can subscribe to the daily newsletter here.


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