Giants GM Joe Schoen doesn’t rule out franchise tag for Saquon Barkley

INDIANAPOLIS — It has been a long and winding road that did not lead to the long-term contract for Saquon Barkley that both the player and the Giants wanted to make happen.

Maybe this time around, things will be different.

For a deal to get done, it appears now — as it did then — Barkley is going to have to recalibrate what he believes he is worth.

“I think we’ve all grown,” Giants general manager Joe Schoen said Tuesday at the NFL Scouting Combine. “Saquon, myself, the organization, through the last 12, 13, 14 months and Saquon may be in a different place now than he was then in terms of understanding the market and the business side of it. I’m looking forward to having those conversations with him.”

Giants general manager Joe Schoen speaks at the NFL combine on Feb. 27, 2024.
Giants general manager Joe Schoen speaks at the NFL combine on Feb. 27, 2024. AP

Those conversations will take place here, face to face, when Schoen and Barkley’s new representation, Edward Berry of CAA, sit down this week for the start of negotiations.

Berry took part in the final talks last year on Barkley’s behalf after he joined Barkley’s team late in the process.

Berry takes over from Kim Miale, who is no longer part of Barkley’s negotiating team.

“He’s a guy we’d like to have back,’’ Schoen said.

That desire is still there with the Giants, as they like what Barkley brings to the table as a starting running back, a team captain, a leader in the locker room and a model citizen in the community.

How much the Giants are willing to pay for the entire Barkley package remains to be seen.

They could slap the franchise tag of $12.1 million on him — they did it last year for $10.1 million — and Schoen said “that’s not off the table. In a perfect world we don’t want to do that again.”

No, the Giants do not want to do that again and that might not even be a last resort, as they do not value him as a player worth $12.1 million on their 2024 salary cap.

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“I know he says he wants a fair deal and I appreciate that,” Schoen said. “Ultimately we’ve got to do what’s best for the franchise, short term and long term, and we’ll take all those things into account.”

Schoen in the past has sounded a bit lukewarm when talking about Barkley and as these new negotiations are set to kick off, his first public remarks seemed more supportive.

Barkley last year was coming off a career-high 1,312-yard season and turned down a deal that would have guaranteed him $23 million.

He missed three games with a high ankle sprain in 2023 and finished with 962 yards.

Giants running back Saquon Barkley.
Giants running back Saquon Barkley. Corey Sipkin for the NY POST

At 27 years old, the Giants are not expected to offer Barkley more than they have in the past.

“I wouldn’t say his value has changed, especially to the organization,’’ Schoen said. “He’s a captain, he’s a leader, he’s a hard worker. I think the world of Saquon and I still think he can play. My value for Saquon really hasn’t changed.

“Unfortunately throughout the process starting back in November of 2022 we weren’t able to come to an agreement in terms of where we were for where a deal made sense. We’ll circle back again.’’

Where do the intangibles Schoen heaped on Barkley come into play here?

“That’s why you go to a player like that and you try to extend him and you stretch and stretch and you stretch and ultimately you couldn’t get something done,’’ Schoen said. “All that bakes in. If the don’t fit our mold or the makeup we desire or the locker room we’ll probably look elsewhere. It’s OK to let players walk if they don’t fit that mold. He’s somebody we’d like to try to get back.”

The bottom line is this: Schoen said when making the final assessment of where Barkley fits within the Giants’ salary scale, he will take into account the running back market and not all those off-the-field attributes Barkley brings to the team.

If Barkley continues to see himself as a top-of-the-market player this is not going to work.

The Giants like him a lot, but the trend nowadays is not to fall in love with running backs.

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