Saquon Barkley reflects on sitting season, says ‘I probably should’

July 19, 2023, 5:24 PM ET

Saquon Barkley said he had considered not playing for the New York Giants this season, admitting during a recent interview that he “might have to take it to this level” amid his impasse with the team on a long-term contract.

Barkley discussed the “levers” in contract negotiations with the Giants during an appearance on “The Money Matters” podcast taped ahead of Monday’s deadline for franchise players to agree long-term deals.

The Giants and Barkley did not agree a deal before the deadline, meaning the star running back will have to play future seasons under a $10.091 million franchise tender.

Because he still hasn’t signed the tender, Barkley cannot be fined for missing training camp, which begins for Giants veterans on Tuesday. The two-time Pro Bowler would lose money only if he missed a regular season game and had to miss game checks – a possibility he admits he has considered.

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“My leverage is I can say, ‘F—you’ to the Giants, I can say, ‘F—you to my teammates,” Barkley told the podcast, which published the July 11 interview on Monday. “And be like, ‘You want me to show what I’m capable of? You want me to show how valuable I am to the team? I’m not showing up. I’m not going to be messing around.’ And it’s a game I can use.

“Anyone [who] know me, know it’s not something I want to do. Is that something that crossed my mind? I never thought I’d do that, but now I’m at a point where I’m like, ‘Jesus, I should probably take it to this level. Am I ready to take it to this level? I don’t know.”

Barkley said he wanted to discuss his options with his family and advisers to “strategize about this” rather than “let the emotions go”. Sources told ESPN’s Adam Schefter earlier this week that Barkley was not expected to report for the start of training camp.

Running back Le’Veon Bell is the most recent player to miss an entire season in 2018 with the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Barkley reiterated during the podcast that he considers himself the best in the NFL, but also said he still wants to help the Giants win the Super Bowl.

“I can try to earn as much money as I can, but the most important thing is to win,” he said. “I know if I can help bring the championship to New York it will go a lot further than this contract.”

The Giants’ contract negotiations with Barkley did not go smoothly from the start. The Giants made an initial bid during farewell week in November that Barkley never seriously considered, sources tell ESPN’s Jordan Raanan, before the two sides pushed for talks well into the season.

The Giants’ bid for Barkley increased earlier this year, reaching a point where the deal could be up to $14 million per season, sources have told Raanan. But the bottom line was guaranteed money and structure, which never came close to satisfying Barkley, prompting the Giants to finally use their franchise label on Barkley in March.

Barkley, 26, finished fourth in the NFL with a career-high 1,312 rushing yards last season, ran for 10 touchdowns and tied for the lead with 57 receptions. He has played in 60 career games over five seasons since becoming the No. 1 overall draft pick. 2 in 2018, when he was named Offensive Rookie of the Year.

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