Saquon Barkley has said it before, and he’ll continue saying it until he’s no longer in East Rutherford, New Jersey.
“Like I’ve said before, I want to be a Giant for life,” Barkley told the panel on ESPN’s “First Take” Monday morning.
Barkley hasn’t wavered in that thought process despite the New York Giants not giving him a long-term extension this past offseason. Instead, a four-year, $160 million contract went to quarterback Daniel Jones following the team’s playoff run last year, while GM Joe Schoen extended the franchise tag to Barkley.
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The same can happen this offseason, as the Giants hold the ability to franchise tag Barkley yet again. But that doesn’t deter Barkley from continuing to say how much respect he has for the organization.
“Because I know how special the Giants organization is,” Barkley said when Stephen A. Smith asked why he wants to remain a Giant. I got nothing but tremendous respect for the Tisch family, the Mara family. This is the team that drafted me, and I’m a big believer of setting a goal and accomplishing that goal. When I got drafted here, one of my goals was being the reason why the Giants are back on top and the reason why we’re having a parade in New York. It just hasn’t went that way so far in my career.
“I mentioned wanting to be in the likes of Tiki [Barber], Michael [Strahan], Eli [Manning]. But the sad part of it is it’s the NFL — it’s a business. If this was my last season, I had a blast. But the beauty of it is there’s still a lot left in the tank. If I’m not a New York Giant next year, and I’m somewhere else, they’re going to get a leader, a hard worker, a competitor, and someone who will go out there and compete at a high level to win football games.”
Barkley would be a hot commodity if the Giants don’t extend him in some fashion this offseason.
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The Penn State product and No. 2 overall pick remained the center of the Giants’ offense in 2023 as he was during their terrific 2022 campaign. He totaled 1,242 yards from scrimmage (962 rushing, 280 receiving) with 10 total touchdowns over 14 games this season.
The 26-year-old continues to prove that he is still one of the elite running backs in the NFL following a brutal 2020 campaign that ended early with multiple ligaments torn in his knee.
Meanwhile, Jones deal with the injury bug in 2023 as the Giants’ offense regressed as a whole. Jones eventually tore his ACL against the Las Vegas Raiders, rendering him unable to play for the rest of the season.
Not the start the Giants wanted to see for their franchise quarterback, yet Barkley continues to show support for him as well.
“I say it like I’ve always said it, I’m a big Daniel Jones fan,” he explained. “I’m a supporter, I’m a believer. I get to see the different side of it, though. I get to see how he comes to work every single day. Unfortunate what happened last season with the injuries and obviously the one that put him out for the year, the ACL. Knowing him as a man and knowing him as a competitor, I know he’ll come back stronger, better than ever.”
Barkley doesn’t know if he’ll continue to call Jones a teammate next year, but he’s been through this rodeo for one offseason. He gets the business part of this, and even said right after the regular season was over that he just hopes the Giants make up their minds sooner than right at the deadline when his franchise tag was placed in 2023.
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But there was never a sense of quit from Barkley, even as the season was lost midway through. The Giants own the sixth overall pick in this year’s NFL Draft because of their 6-11 record this season, one where no one would have shook their heads if Barkley decided to bow out and focus on potential free agency.
“Never,” he said about that thought entering his mind. “I got a job to do. I had a “C” on my chest for a reason. It’s bigger than that. Obviously, the offseason didn’t go the way we would’ve liked. I wasn’t able to come away with a long-term deal, but I put in a tweet: ‘It is what it is.’ So when I got there, keep the main thing the main thing, and that’s compete at a high level with my brothers. That’s not even in my character.”
Barkley will see what the Giants decide to do this offseason. Until then, he’ll continue staying away from the weight room and letting his body recover before offseason training ramps up again. He’ll also be at the Super Bowl, supporting fellow running back Christian McCaffrey, as he mentioned him as the best at his position in the league.
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McCaffrey got paid because of his abilities. Barkley believes he should as well.