Giants RB Saquon Barkley on decision to sign, report to camp: 'I had an epiphany'

New York Giants running back Saquon Barkley surprised many this week when he inked a one-year contract to report to training camp.

Barkley signed a one-year deal a smidge over the $10.091 franchise tag figure. The contract includes incentives that can boost his salary to the $11 million mark.

This offseason, the star running back openly discussed his dismay with the process following the Giants' use of the franchise tag back in March. Barkley said at points he might consider even sitting out the season.

Ultimately, he didn't even miss a day of training camp.

"I had an epiphany," Barkley told reporters on Thursday. "The reality of it is, one, I kind of just followed my heart. Honestly, I heard what everyone was saying in the news, on social media, but I kind of just followed my heart. And then you've got to look at it as a business point, from a business view. I felt like, what's the best thing that I can do? Some people may agree or disagree with this. It's a sit-out or a sit-in, and I feel like for this year specifically, the best thing that I can do for myself would be coming back, going out there and playing the game that I love, playing for my teammates, doing something that I wanted to do since I was a little kid.

"I understand. I know what's going on with the running back situation and me being tagged, and the value of the running back continuing going down. The only way that I feel like that's gonna change is someone's gotta make a change, and God-willing, hopefully, I can be one of those people to do it."

Barkley clearly prioritized getting into camp with his teammates over pushing for the best deal. He could likely have signed the same incentivized bump later in camp. Instead, he did so at the outset.

After the July 17 deadline passed, the Giants had little reason to budge from the franchise tender. They held all the leverage. Barkley knew it.

"It didn't happen because, one, just being flat-out honest, the tag," he said. "That's the leverage that they have. I think if I wasn't able to get tagged, I do think the negotiating process would have went a lot different. I think I would have had a lot more leverage in my way. But like I said publicly … there's a lot of sources, a lot of he say, she say. I said I wasn't trying to reset the running back market. I said I wanted something that is respectable. I don't want to use the word fair because as I'm sitting here in New York (with) 20, 30 cameras on me, I'm also talking to fans, and there's a lot of people that are, where I come from, don't have a lot of money, and we're talking about $10 to 11 million. That's a lot of money. So I don't want to say something that's fair. I want to say something that's respectable. And if I felt like if it was something respectable, I would've took it. I looked at my mom, my dad, within my team and through my family, and I didn't agree with it. I didn't take it."

Barkley noted it would be a "flat-out lie" if he said he wasn't disappointed with how contract negotiations played out. 

Ahead of the deadline to franchise tag players, the Giants were negotiating with Barkley and quarterback Daniel Jones. After striking a deal with the QB, Big Blue used the tag on the RB, setting off an offseason of turmoil. In an alternate reality, it was Barkley who signed a multi-year contract and Jones on the tag -- or both signed long-term.

Barkley was asked Thursday if he regretted not signing the multi-year deal before the Giants took it off the table when the tag was applied.

"No, no, didn't make sense," he responded.

Barkley and the Raiders' Josh Jacobs not getting long-term deals set off a firestorm of discontent among running backs, who decried the devaluation of their market.

The Big Blue back is cognizant of his role in that market.

"I know how great this position has been," he said of running backs. "I know how helpful this position (is) to teams throughout the league. When you talk about legacy, it's on guys like myself. It's on guys like Christian (McCaffrey), it's on guys like J.T. (Jonathan Taylor) and Najee (Harris) for us to go out there and change the narrative."

After signing his one-year deal, Barkley will be in a similar spot next offseason, when the Giants could again use the franchise tag to keep him in New York for 2024.

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