Joe Schoen: Giants, Saquon Barkley 'weren't really that close' on in-season contract talks, though team would like him back

Jan 15, 2023; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; New York Giants running back Saquon Barkley (26) looks on during warmups before a wild card game against the Minnesota Vikings at U.S. Bank Stadium.
Jan 15, 2023; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; New York Giants running back Saquon Barkley (26) looks on during warmups before a wild card game against the Minnesota Vikings at U.S. Bank Stadium. / Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

Two days after the Giants' season came to an end in the Divisional Round, general manager Joe Schoen and head coach Brian Daboll met with the media to look back on the 2022 season and look ahead to a pivotal offseason for Big Blue.

After a playoff run that not many people outside the building expected, the Giants enter an offseason that could see quite a bit of change in regards to the roster. The Giants have 18 players becoming unrestricted free agents, and along with Daniel Jones, running back Saquon Barkley highlights the list.

Schoen was asked on Monday about bringing Barkley back, and while he did say the team would like to have the Penn State product remain in the fold, he also surprisingly said that the team and Barkley “weren’t really close” on an extension when they had talks during the bye week.

“We were off on the value and again, we said we would circle back up at the end of the season and then continue those conversations. But that time of year, we weren’t really that close, I don’t think,” Schoen said.

Barkley had an outstanding 2022 season, putting himself in the running for Comeback Player of the Year after his 2020 season was wiped out due to a torn right ACL and his 2021 campaign was still hampered by his recovery process. He rushed for a career-best 1,312 yards and added 338 more through the air, racking up 10 touchdowns as the Giants made the playoffs for the first time since the 2016 season.

Schoen admitted that the team has a lot of “difficult” decisions to make this offseason, and while he wants Barkley back, he knows it takes two to tango.

“This is a special team. To me, this is my first year, we’d like to have all the guys back. I really would, but there’s a business side to it and there are rules that you need to operate under in terms of the salary cap,” Schoen said. “Saquon is a good player, he’s a good teammate, I loved getting to know him this season, and he’s a guy that we would like to have back, it’s just – again, we haven’t had our end-of-season meetings yet.

“We’re less than 48 hours after that game, so everybody’s going to step back, take the emotion out of it, evaluate the roster, and then again, we have to operate under the salary cap with how we’re going to divvy up, how we’re going to create the roster, what are the priority positions and how are we going to move forward, but we would like to have Saquon back, if it works out.”

If the Giants don’t extend or tag Barkley prior to the start of the new league year on March 15, the former No. 2 overall pick will be part of a star-studded free agent running back group, which could also include Josh Jacobs, Miles Sanders, Jamaal Williams and Tony Pollard, among others.

But the running back position has become a bit devalued over the past few years, begging the question as to whether or not the Giants are comfortable dishing out a big contract to a position that often sees age and injury slow down even the best in the game.

“There’s a risk to any big contract,” Schoen said. “I mean, anybody can go out there and get hurt at any position, so I think that’s a risk-reward. The good thing, I feel, about extending people in house, you know their work ethic, you know their durability, you know their injury history, you know how they train, you know how they practice. So in terms of eliminating some of the margin of error, it’s a known commodity.”

Barkley has said multiple times since Saturday’s loss to the Philadelphia Eagles that he can’t envision that game being his final time in a Giants uniform. But with New York needing to build a deeper and more competitive top-to-bottom roster, only time will tell if Barkley’s days as a Giant are finished.