Saquon Barkley faces seven more games with the New York Giants before he can become a free agent again. Coming off an offseason when he was franchise tagged due to a lack of a long-term contract agreement, he learned a cold, hard fact about the business side of football.
"Loyalty means nothing," he told reporters on Thursday. "Loyalty, that don't mean nothing. No matter how loyal, no matter how committed you are, it's a business at the end of the day. That is something that I have learned."
Barkley signed a one-year deal worth $10.1 million this season plus $900K in incentives after declining to sign the franchise tag that was going to be worth only slightly less money. After seeing some of the contracts handed out to running backs the past few seasons, the 26-year-old was hoping it was his time to cash in. Instead, the Giants opened their checkbook for Daniel Jones, giving the quarterback a $160 million deal ($82 million guaranteed).
Now with the Giants 2-8, without Jones for the rest of the season and staring down a top-10 draft pick in 2024, the question for Barkley, who leads the team with 568 rushing yards, is if he's open to a heavy workload over the team's final seven games.
Barkley has missed games in his career due to ankle injuries and played only twice during the 2020 season before tearing his ACL. Risking injury could affect the one opportunity in his career to sign a lucrative extension. Or the Giants could place a second franchise tag on him.
"When you're a premier back in this league — not to talk about myself — they feed you the ball because it helps you and gives you an opportunity to win games more times than not," Barkley said. "And then when it comes to contract or a certain time and you're a running back, you having so much miles on you, it's a crazy thought process.
"I try my best not to think about that or I would go insane. I just try to keep focus on the love of the game, take care of my body and whenever the opportunity comes to talk contract again — whether it's with the Giants or another team — hopefully I'm able to pull the film or pull up numbers to be able to get a contract that is the best for me and my family."
The Giants have no plans on tanking as ownership has always been against the idea. That means they will need their most dynamic player to help lead them to a few more victories.
"Compete," said Giants head coach Brian Daboll about how they will approach the rest of the 2023 season. "We're in a competitive business. Try to compete in everything you do. ... Do whatever we can to try to win a game."
"For me, the way I try to handle that, I try not to focus on that. I try my best not to think about it," he said. "I feel every week I have to answer a question about it. I get it, [the media] are doing your job. That is the only time it really crosses my mind, to be completely honest. Because if not, I would go insane. I would lose my mind if I was able to focus on that. I try to keep the main thing the main thing. I continue to enjoy the process, take it one day at a time."