EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – The Giants' two most prominent players are impending free agents and both stated they want to stay with the team.
Daniel Jones and Saquon Barkley spoke to reporters in the locker room today as the players packed away the remnants of the 2022 season, which ended last night with a 38-7 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles in an NFC Divisional Playoff Game.
Like all teams after every season, the Giants have much work to do and questions to answer in the six-month offseason that begins now. Until their situations are resolved, the status of Jones and Barkley will dominate Giants-related news. Jones just completed his fourth season and Barkley his fifth. They would like to keep the relationship intact.
"I love this place," Jones said. "I've really enjoyed my time here. I want to be here. I think there's a business side of it all, and a lot of that I can't control. So, I really enjoy it. Love and respect for this organization, the ownership, and the guys in this locker room. So, I'd love to be here. I've really enjoyed being here. And we'll see how that all works out."
"I couldn't imagine that being the last time being in a Giants uniform," Barkley said. "But that's just the nature of the business. I can't control any of that. It comes with it. I've been vocal with how I feel. But I'm excited for the future no matter what happens."
Coach Brian Daboll and general manager Joe Schoen are scheduled to hold their season-ending news conference tomorrow. Jones was asked if either or both have expressed to him a desire for him to return.
"I think we'll cross that bridge when we get there," Jones said. "It's all still very fresh from last night, and I think that's been what we've talked about to this point. So, there's a lot of those conversations to be had down the road."
Both Jones and Barkley were captains and catalysts on a team that finished 9-7-1 in the regular season and earned the franchise's first postseason berth in six years.
Jones established a Giants single season record for qualifying quarterbacks by completing 67.2% of his passes and his passer rating of 92.5 passer rating was also a career high. He threw only five interceptions in 472 attempts, a NFL-best 1.1 percentage. In addition to throwing for 3,205 yards and 15 touchdowns, Jones finished second on the team with 708 rushing yards and seven touchdowns, single-season records for a Giants quarterback record. For perspective, Eli Manning rushed for seven touchdowns in his entire 16-year career.
"I think I improved as a player this year," Jones said. "As an offense, as a group, we improved a lot throughout the year. I'm proud of that. I'm proud to be a part of it. I think we've got a lot of really good players, really good dudes, really good teammates. And I'm grateful to be a part of it.
Those dudes and teammates hold Jones in the highest regard, both as player and off the field.
"Daniel has all the tools of the trade: he has the arm, he has the capability, he has the leadership, the effort, the hard work that it takes to be an elite quarterback," safety Julian Love said. "I think he won a lot of games for us this year. As much as I don't believe in wins and losses are a quarterback stat, he did his thing for us this year. And as this team continues to build for the future, just try to get more people around him just to help him succeed. I think he took a huge step this year. And I think Giants fans have to be proud of just all he accomplished this year."
Barkley did not miss a game due to injury for the first time since his 2018 Rookie of the Year season. He was fourth in the NFL with 1,312 rushing yards and tied with Richie James for the team lead with 57 receptions. Barkley's 1,650 yards from scrimmage were the league's seventh-highest figure.
With Jones and Barkley doing much of the heavy lifting, the Giants had the best season either of them had experienced in the NFL, by far.
"It was fun," Barkley said. "It was something that I've always wanted to do. I've always wanted to play in the playoffs, compete in the playoffs and compete for a championship. Obviously, the first couple of years here, didn't happen. I believe that we'll get to this spot at some point. I wanted to be part of it. I've been vocal about that. And we were able to accomplish that this year. So, whatever the future holds."
Did he consider the possibility that the game last night could have been his last in a Giants uniform?
"No, you don't," he said. "If that was to become the case, I reflect on it in that moment. But I'm a pretty positive thinker. I'm just happy, living life like a little kid. I play for a great organization and play the sport I love. The sad thing at this time in your life and in this profession is that it's business. Whatever happens, happens."
*Defensive lineman Leonard Williams was asked what he thinks of the Giants' potential.
"Honestly, I appreciate that question because this is probably one of the first years it's been really sad to leave," he said. "A lot of times, we've been in losing seasons. So, near the end in the final two games, you're ready to go to be honest. You know you're not going to the playoffs. You're kind of just playing because you got games left. And guys are ready to go home at that point.
"This year has been different. We have so much camaraderie. People are a team this year, and I feel like we grew so much and built on our identity and culture here. And we were able to make it to the second round, which exceeded people's expectations. We always believed in ourselves and stuff like that, but I feel like we always exceeded the outside people's expectation this year. It's definitely hard to come in here and see everybody packing up and getting ready to go home. I feel like a lot of people have gotten close this year. So, it's hard."
*Left tackle Andrew Thomas was selected second-team All-Pro this season.
"I had a lot of fun this year," Thomas said. "Just with the relationships I've built with this team. You can tell we love each other, we play hard for each other, and a lot of energy. So, it was fun doing that.
"It's tough (saying goodbye) because after this year the team's going to look different next year. Some guys won't be here, so we just have to appreciate the moments that we have."
*Safety Xavier McKinney on the Giants' future:
"I think we got a lot to look forward to," he said. "I thought we had a great year. I thought we improved a lot, especially just thinking back from where we came from the last two years, last three years. It's been a major improvement. I think we got a lot of things to be happy about. We shouldn't be complacent; I don't think we are. We still are going to be hungry for more, a lot hungrier. Now, we just got to look to continue to build off what we've already built. We just go to continue to try to improve so we can be back in this situation next year."