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Does Signing Veteran RB Jonathan Stewart Signify the Giants want Saquon Barkley?

Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

In a move that made a lot of heads turn, the New York Giants officially signed former Carolina Panthers’ running back Jonathan Stewart on Tuesday.

Stewart – who signed a two-year contract worth up to $8.4M, with $2.95M guaranteed – is no stranger to general manager Dave Gettleman and offensive coordinator Mike Shula, who both come from Carolina as well.

“I am very pleased that we were able to make Jonathan a New York Football Giant,” said Gettleman. “He is a quality runner with power and speed and brings a veteran, professional presence to our locker room. He’s a terrific addition for us at this time.”

Of course, it’s a no brainer that New York needs help at the running back position – and with that in mind the entire offensive line; however, with Stewart turning 31 later next week and coming off his worst NFL season, many fans are left puzzled as to why the Giants would agree to sign him.

Sure, he’s got the support and confidence of two important staff members, but is that enough to help revitalize a less-than-mediocre O-line?

Haha. Of course not.

In fact, it’s safe to say Stewart is hitting the downward decline of his football career.

The Panthers drafted Stewart in the first round (13th overall) during the 2008 draft – 10 years ago. In 2009, he was able to hit the 1,000 yards mark rushing for 1,133 yards that season. And in 2015, he came close to that feat again falling just 11 shy at 989 yards. Now, he remains the Panther’s leading rusher with 7,318 career yards. And while that’s impressive, according to ESPN Stats & Information, last season he averaged a career-low 3.4 yards per carry ranking him 32nd out of 34 running backs that had at least 50 carriers. Not to mention his total yards were his fewest since 2013, a season where he was injured.

Though, before we get heated over what appears to be a silly deal made by the front office, we have to take into consideration that while Stewart does seem to be at the end of his career, he still has ten years of experience in the NFL.

For the Giants this is where Stewart can help.

Currently, the Giants 2017 top rusher Orleans Darkwa and also Shane Vereen are headed to free agency. The only running backs signed are Wayne Gallman and Paul Perkins, who both are 23-years-old. With such a young group, Stewart can step in and provide leadership and guidance that is undoubtedly missing.

Plus, as the Giants are in a rebuilding season, which involves a lot of young talent, Stewart’s experience in the locker room can help provide insight and discipline that New York has been lacking.

Which brings us to the most interesting part about this deal – what it means for the upcoming draft in April. As we know, the Giants currently hold the No.2 selection overall. And while there have been some talk about finding the new franchise quarterback with that pick, there has also been talks about sticking with Eli Manning and preparing backup Davis Webb to take over when Manning’s historic reign comes to an end.

With rumors that the Giants are thus eyeing Saquon Barkley, this deal with Stewart is even more confirmation of that. If the Giants do decide to pick up Barkley, one of the most impressive players in this season’s draft, and if the Cleveland Browns don’t beat them to it – Stewart would be in a perfect position to mold the young rookie.

Of course, this all comes down to Cleveland. The Browns, who were thought to have been in the market for a quarterback with their No.1 pick, made some interesting moves themselves today adding former Bills quarterback Tyrod Taylor and getting rid of their quarterback DeShone Kizer.

In other words, the Browns might no longer need a quarterback and they are green lighted to pick Barkley at No.1.

However, with Taylor set to hit free agency himself after the 2018 season, who knows what the Browns will do with their first pick.

The bottom line is this: if the Giants seriously think Webb is the future franchise quarterback and if they drafted Stewart with the intention of adding a veteran’s perspective to a rebuilding, the Giants are still on path to add the Penn State sensation Barkley to their roster.

Let’s just, once again, keep praying that he doesn’t get scooped up at No. 1.

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