Saquon Barkley followed his heart in signing franchise tag and joining the Giants

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New York Giants' Saquon Barkley talks to reporters after a practice at the NFL football team's training facility in East Rutherford, N.J., Thursday, July 27, 2023. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – Star running back Saquon Barkley followed his heart in signing his franchise tag and joining the New York Giants for the start of training camp.

Speaking for the first time since signing a one-year, $11 contract earlier Tuesday, Barkley said he wanted to play the game he loved, realized he had little leverage in contract talks after being tagged and hoped having a second straight big season would help increase the value of running backs across the NFL.

“I had an epiphany,” Barkley said Thursday after the second day of practice. “Now, the reality of it is, I kind of just followed my heart."

The Giants and Barkley failed to reach a deal on a multi-year contract extension on July 17, meaning he could only play on a one-year deal, centered around the $10.1 million franchise tag the Giants placed on him on March.

There was speculation Barkley would sit out a part of training camp or possibly the entire season if he was very unhappy. It never came that close. The two sides got together Monday and 24 hours later the 26-year-old signed his tender sheet which was coupled with $909,000 in incentives.

Barkley said he considered sitting out, but opted to sign the new contract after talking with family and former players. He also noted if he sat out and the Giants had a bad season, no team would want to sign him the following season.

“The only way that I will make a change or do something that’s going to benefit for myself and my family is doing what I do best, and that’s showing up playing the game I love and do at a high level,” Barkley said.

Barkley strongly hinted he could have gotten more money from contract proposals made during the 9 1/2-month of negotiations that started last season. He turned them down because he felt the offers were not “respectable” at the time. He said he didn't use “fair” because most fans don't come close to making what an athlete does, he said.

Barkley ran for a career-best 1,312 yards as well as 10 touchdowns in 2022. He also shared the team lead with 57 catches in helping the Giants (9-7-1) make the playoffs for the first time since 2016.

The Penn State product hopes another good season will increase the value of his position. The Giants can put a franchise tag on Barkley again next season.

Barkley refused to speculate how he would react if he was tagged again, but noted he is now focused on this season. He admitted he was disappointed at times during the talks, but felt the sides talked in good faith.

Barkley is now focused on this season and he has no regrets. His goal is being there for his teammates and helping them win a title. He also wants to combine with fellow running backs such as Christian McCaffrey of the 49ers, Jonathan Taylor of the Colts and Najee Harris of the Steelers to change the financial narrative for the position.

“There are a lot of running backs out here that are pivotal," Barkley said. "A key point to having teams have success in this league, helping teams have success in this league and the way that we are getting devalued, it’s not fair at all. But life’s not fair. God willing, I stay healthy so I can show them and then I can tell them.”

Barkley had no problem with the Giants giving quarterback Daniel Jones, defensive tackle Dexter Lawrence and left tackle Andrew Thomas deals this year worth a combined $365 million, saying he always wants the best for his teammates.

NOTES: DT Rakeem Nuñez-Roches was in a car accident on Tuesday and has missed the first two days of practice. Coach Brian Daboll said the free agent signee is making progress and will not be sidelined long. ... Second-round draft pick John Michael Schmitz played center with the first unit Thursday. Ben Bredeson was there on Wednesday. Daboll said the two would rotate for now, and so will other players at other positions. ... UConn coach Danny Hurley, who led the Huskies to the NCAA men’s basketball title, was at practice with some of his assistant coaches.


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