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Giants won't use franchise tag on Saquon Barkley; RB headed to free agency

The New York Giants will not use their franchise tag on pending free-agent running back Saquon Barkley, NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported on Tuesday, the deadline for teams to use their tag on a player.

Giants general manager Joe Schoen did not rule out the possibility of using the tag on Barkley for a second consecutive season last week at the 2024 NFL Scouting Combine.

"He's a guy we'd like to have back," Schoen told reporters in Indianapolis.

Schoen said he and Barkley's reps had planned to meet at the combine last week to discuss Barkley's future in New York.

Barkley was franchise tagged a year ago as returned to the Giants for a sixth season following a brief holdout and a revised one-year contract. It's now unclear if he'll return to the Giants for a seventh season. It would have cost the Giants $12.1 million to tag Barkley for the 2024 season.

Although Barkley, 27, failed to match his brilliant 2022 season in which he totaled 1,650 yards from scrimmage, Barkley still was effective in 2023. He tallied 962 rush yards and six rushing TDs, along with 41 receptions for 280 yards and four TDs in 14 starts in 2023. Matt Breida was the Giants' next-leading rusher with 151 yards and one TD.

The Giants can still retain Barkley, even with other free agents -- including safety Xavier McKinney -- set to hit the market. Schoen said he was "pleasantly surprised" that the league's 2024 salary cap will rise to $255.4 million, which currently affords the Giants close to $38 million in cap space, according to Over The Cap.

Barkley's injury history also factors into the equation. He suffered ankle injuries in both 2021 and 2023, as well as his torn ACL and MCL in 2020, which limited Barkley to two games that season. But Schoen said last week at the combine that Barkley's value hasn't diminished in the GM's eyes.

"I think the world of Saquon and I still think he can play," Schoen said. "So, 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 both thought a deal made sense."

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