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John Mara, Joe Schoen talk state of Giants' offseason at NFL Annual Meeting


PHOENIX – John Mara wants Saquon Barkley to wear a Giants uniform for as long as the running back plays in the NFL.

"My dream is that he plays his whole career as a Giant like Eli (Manning) did, like (Michael) Strahan did, like Tiki (Barber) did," Mara said Monday. "I mentioned to him, 'Look what they're doing off the field now.' I think he would like that as well.

"We'd love to have him. He provides leadership. He's a great player. We'd like to get something done with him at some point."

That's where the uncertainty sets in. The Giants placed a franchise tag on Barkley on March 7, the same day they reached a multi-year deal with quarterback Daniel Jones. If he plays under the tag, Barkley will earn $10.1 million this year. He had hoped for a longer contract at a higher salary. But the running back market has been established – two-time rushing champion Ezekiel Elliott was recently released by Dallas – and Barkley joined the Cowboys' Tony Pollard and Las Vegas' Josh Jacobs as prominent backs who received franchise tags.

"You certainly are aware of that, but he adds a lot to our team - not just as a running back," Mara said. "So, he is somebody that we want back. But there is a limit as to what we can do.

"I don't think he's thrilled about being tagged. But he's a professional. He understands the business. … You just go through these negotiations with your better players. It's not the first time we've been through it. I'm still hopeful at some point we'll be able to get something done."

Does the market influence how general manager Joe Schoen values Barkley?

"It doesn't," he said. "Saquon knows how I think about him."

But an agreement does not seem imminent.

"There's no outstanding offer right now," Schoen said. "Once we put the franchise tag on him, we stepped back. We knew that throughout the negotiation that if there was a time that we can't come to an agreement, we're going to go to the franchise tag. And that's what we did.

"Essentially when you're building a team, and I'll say this to everybody, there's 53 players. You can't look at everybody in a silo. As you're going through negotiations and you can't come to an agreement on what the value of a player is, then you have to shift to plan B. And we knew we had the franchise tag as a tool. And we'll utilize that - see if anything happens down the road."

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Mara and Schoen made their remarks at separate 15-minute news conferences here at the NFL Annual Meeting.

Schoen said he spoke to Barkley's agent, Kim Miale, "a couple days ago. I've been in constant contact with her. Right now, he's on the franchise tag. Until we come to some sort of agreement down the road, then that's what it is."

Schoen later added, "Where we are with him on the franchise tag, we're fine with that (in terms of managing the salary cap)."

Mara said he spoke to Barkley about 10 days ago.

"We had a very good conversation," Mara said. "I told him how much I wanted him here, how much I wanted him to be a Giant."

After three seasons in which he was plagued by injuries, Barkley remained healthy in 2022 and rushed for 1,312 yards on 295 carries, both career bests. He scored a team-high 10 touchdowns and tied wide receiver Richie James for the team lead with 57 receptions. Most importantly, he was a catalyst for the Giants as they finished 9-7-1 in the regular-season and won their first playoff game in 11 years.

"Our message to him is still very much, 'We want you back. I want you to be one of the leaders of this team. I want you to be one of the faces of this franchise,'" Mara said. "But there's a limit as to how far we can go. We have to build a team around you. We've gone just about as far as we can."

Mara does not want to part with Barkley even for potentially significant assets.

"I don't want to trade him," Mara said. "We're not looking to trade him. We're not shopping him. I'd be very surprised if we made that decision."

Whether they reach a multi-season accord or Barkley plays on the one-year tag, the Giants' opinion about one of their best and most popular players will not waver.

"I told Saquon this, too, we want him to be a Giant for his entire career if that's possible," Mara said. "The running back market is what it is right now. I'm still hopeful that at some point, we'll be able to come to an agreement with him."

Time will tell if they do.

View photos of the newest members of the Giants touring the Quest Diagnostics Training Center.


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