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Hopeful 'Giant for life' Saquon Barkley knows future is 'out of my control'

Like the rest of the Giants' 2023 season, Saquon Barkley hasn't quite replicated the success of 2022.

That doesn't mean he hasn't made a difference. Barkley is averaging four yards per attempt on the ground (916 yards and four touchdowns on 229 attempts), and finding ways to pick up positive gains despite playing behind a revolving door of an offensive line. This point, however, will stand only as a footnote when it comes to his future -- and his money.

Despite the challenges of 2023, Barkley wants to be in New York in 2024 and beyond. However, he's not sure it will happen.

"I've mentioned before that I want to be a Giant for life," Barkley said, via ESPN. "That was a goal of mine when I got drafted. I wanted to leave a legacy here, but it's out of my control."

Barkley had to battle intensely for a quality salary in 2023, agreeing to a revised deal resembling the one offered to him by the franchise tag. New York declined to commit to Barkley long term, instead handing quarterback Daniel Jones $160 million over four years, and decided to proceed with a prove-it deal for the star running back.

Jones has been sidelined for a while now. Barkley, meanwhile, has played in 13 of a possible 16 games, carrying the load on the ground for a Giants offense that hasn't given him much room to work.

But he doesn't play the game's most important position, instead fulfilling a role at a position with a notoriously short shelf life. With this -- and Barkley's injury history -- in mind, it seems unlikely he'll fetch the coveted multi-year deal from the Giants, especially after they failed to meet expectations in 2023.

"I'm still as open as I was before," Barkley said. "I just want something that is fair. ... But like I said, I get it. It's a business. If it's not here, hopefully it's some other place."

Barkley's 2022 resurgence reawakened the NFL world to his talents, which had been lost to the injury bug for most of the previous two campaigns. It was the perfect time for Barkley to land a multi-year deal, but New York slapped the franchise tag on him, preventing him from hitting free agency.

This time around, it seems likelier the Giants won't use the tag on him. And Barkley knows he's running out of years to capitalize in the open market.

"I do know that if I'm going to strike, I have to do it now," Barkley said. "This is really probably my last opportunity to get a second deal. After that, the way they view running backs and treat running backs, it's not really ideal if you're looking at it that way.

"I would definitely love to get a second deal."

If Barkley heads to free agency, he'll do so as a 27-year-old running back (his birthday is in February) with plenty of tread left on the tires. He's proven to still have the burst that made him special at Penn State, in his early seasons and in 2022. And he could thrive with a team with a better blocking unit.

How much that is worth remains to be seen. But as Barkley sees it now, he's not going to waste time worrying about the future, when everything will sort itself out.

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