JERSEY CITY, N.J. — When running back Saquon Barkley was asked at his AMPT football camp how optimistic he was about getting a long-term deal from the New York Giants this year, he paused, somewhat unsure what was the appropriate answer. It was an indication that he’s not ecstatic with how the negotiations have gone to this point.
“I don’t know. I don’t know,” Barkley said of his optimism level.
The Giants used the franchise tag on Barkley earlier this year. He did not sign it yet, which keeps him away from the facility this spring. New York has mandatory minicamp on Tuesday and Wednesday which Barkley can’t and won’t attend.
The two sides have until July 17 to agree on a new deal. That did provide Barkley some hope that there is time.
“I think they’re open to talking. I’m open to talking,” Barkley said. “I think at the end of the day if you really break it down and look at it as a whole, there is no rush. There is still time on the table to get to July 17. July 17 is not tomorrow. It’s not in a week. That is how I look at it. Maybe that is the naïve way to look at it, I could be completely wrong. But for me, that’s how I look at it. I could be completely wrong. Hopefully. I trust in the Giants that we could get something done.”
If they’re unable to find a middle ground, the veteran running back will at least contemplate sitting out the season.
“That comes up in the conversation if something doesn’t get done by July 17,” said Barkley, who also specified that is not something he’s thought about much yet.
Barkley later added of the entire contract situation: “At the end of the day, it’s all about respect. That is really what it is.”
The Giants had an offer out to Barkley earlier in the year that could’ve been worth up to close to $14 million per season, sources have told ESPN. Barkley and his team turned it down.
The perception of this has left a negative taste in Barkley’s mouth. He believes he’s being perceived as “greedy,” despite making it clear that he was never interested in resetting the running back market and wants to remain a Giant for life.
“Me getting tagged, was I upset about it? Nobody wants to get tagged,” Barkley said. “To sit here and say I was frustrated, I was mad, I was upset, what really got me upset was the stories that got leaked out and how misleading they were and how untruthful they were.
“I feel it was trying to paint a narrative of me, paint a picture of me that is not even true. Not even close to being the truth.”
Trying to negotiate a new contract has been an eye-opening process.
“Just come to the reality that this is a business,” Barkley said.
When asked specifically if he was talking about the lack of guaranteed money in those deals not being mentioned, Barkley told the reporters present at Caven Point Field — where 150 inner-city youth were treated to a free camp — they should read between the lines. The devil is in the details.
In the meantime, if Barkley plays on the franchise tag, he will make $10.1 million this season.
Getting paid at the running back position has become increasingly more difficult in recent years. The running back market cratered this offseason, in part because three backs — Barkley, Las Vegas’ Josh Jacobs and Dallas’ Tony Pollard — were all tagged.
But Barkley sees his value to the Giants, who he noted were one-dimensional running the football the first half of last season. He had at least 70 yards rushing in eight of the first nine games.
Barkley led the team with 1,312 yards rushing, 10 touchdowns and tied for the team lead with 57 receptions. He’s also been the face of the franchise since arriving as the No. 2 overall pick in 2018.
“I see [the running back market]. I’m aware of that,” Barkley said. “I feel like I’m more than that. I feel we finally got to a place where we’re a successful team. We got to start winning games and I was a big part of that.”
Barkley remains one of the most respected players on the Giants. He’s a team captain who demands respect from his peers. Among those who supported Barkley’s camp and were on hand Sunday evening were recently-paid defensive tackle Dexter Lawrence, wide receiver Isaiah Hodgins, quarterback Tyrod Taylor, new teammate Darren Waller, linebacker Micah McFadden, cornerbacks Darnay Holmes and Amani Oruwariye and even defensive coordinator Wink Martindale.
The Giants (9-7-1) reached the playoffs and won a postseason game this past season for the first time in Barkley’s professional career.
Barkley told ESPN’s Adam Schefter his goal remains being “compensated respectfully based on my contributions to the team on the field and in the locker room.”
“I’ve been in talks with the Giants throughout the offseason,” Barkley said. “If at some point there’s a deal that is fair to both sides on the table, I’ll be ready to sign.”