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Giants LB Kayvon Thibodeaux: 'I feel like Saquon should've been paid' before Daniel Jones

Giants running back Saquon Barkley is headed for another offseason of uncertainty at the end of his one-year deal with New York.

One teammate, linebacker Kayvon Thibodeaux, believes the club should have taken care of its two-time Pro Bowler last year -- ahead of quarterback Daniel Jones.

"You pay Daniel Jones $40 million. And it was a great -- me? I believe in Daniel Jones," Thibodeaux said on 7PM in Brooklyn with Carmelo Anthony & The Kid Mero. "Let me tell you what I'm mad at. Only thing I'll say about that. What I'm mad about is that Saquon, because if you look at the game, the tape, Saquon was responsible for at least 30 percent of our explosive plays. Talking about the year (2022) we won the playoff game. So for me and for the integrity of working together and hard work and we all believe the same things, I feel like Saquon should've been paid first. That's what I feel like."

Last year at this time, the Giants were coming off a surprise playoff berth that reached the Divisional Round in head coach Brian Daboll's first year, with big decisions to make after a mini-breakout season by Jones and a resurgent one by Barkley.

Minutes before the March deadline to use the franchise tag, Big Blue locked up its QB to a four-year, $160 million deal, then pivoted to tag Barkley, who just ahead of training camp signed a one-year contract to bump his potential 2023 earnings up from the tag's $10.091 million to $11 million.

Thus far, things have not panned out how New York would've liked.

Jones played just six games this season and went 1-5 before tearing his ACL. Barkley performed well, but his efficiency dipped on a struggling offense that fell from 15th in scoring and 18th in yards in 2022 to 30th and 29th, respectively, in 2023.

A season after setting a career-high with 1,312 rushing yards, Barkley ran for 962 yards and six scores while averaging 3.9 yards per attempt.

The Giants finished at a middling 6-11, again in need of evaluating where they stand at QB and RB -- only this time without any post-playoff optimism in the equation.

It's impossible to imagine New York moves on from Jones entirely in 2024, given the confidence in him a year prior, not to mention his injury and the $36 million still guaranteed on his contract. But with the No. 6 overall pick in April's upcoming draft, perhaps the front office falls in love with a quarterback and hedges their bets.

At running back, free agency looms for Barkley, who only turns 27 in February but happens to star at a position with a seemingly tenuous market. He admitted his future was out of his control earlier this month.

As for Thibodeaux, he's a surefire Giant for at least the next two years of his rookie contract and likely beyond after stacking a stellar campaign on top of his first, which had placed him fourth in Defensive Rookie of the Year voting.

The edge rusher led Big Blue with a career-high 11.5 sacks in 2023, with four passes defensed, three forced fumbles, 16 QB hits and 12 tackles for loss.

Regardless of his disagreement over the Giants' order of operations a year ago, he maintains full faith in the New York brass to turn things around.

"I believe in what we got," he said. "The back office, they're gonna handle the draft well. I think they scheme and put the team together, I say like I would. I like the pieces they got. I like what they're doing. It's their first, you know, couple draft classes. This year didn't go too good. I love the coach. I love what we got going."

Thibodeaux added: "I wouldn't want to be on any other team, with any other franchise in any other league. I love where I'm at."

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