Barkley, 25, just played out the fifth-year option in his rookie contract and set a career high with 1,312 rushing yards while remaining healthy the entire season.
"I'm not really too concerned about resetting any [running back] markets or anything like that," he said Sunday, when the Giants cleaned out their lockers following a 38-7 loss in the division round against the Philadelphia Eagles the previous night. "I'm realistic."
What exactly that means is that Barkley is looking for his deal to fall somewhere in between the $11 million he would get on the franchise tag and the $16 million McCaffrey got when he signed in April 2020. It would seem likely to land closer to McCaffrey's deal than the franchise tag.
It seems the likely scenario considering that Barkley played at an extremely high level this season after missing significant time the previous three years with injuries. This was his first full season since his rookie campaign.
"I know what I was on pace to do," he said. "But having two years filled up with injuries and having a season not performing to the level I know I can perform doesn't help. But I think I was able to show the type of caliber a player I am, the things I am able to do on a football field. That is something I wanted to do. That was my goal. I was able to accomplish that."
Barkley has already made it known that he would like to be a Giant for life. He says his top priority is winning, and he finally believes the organization is on the right path.
The Giants (9-7-1) completed their first winning season since 2016 in the first year under coach Brian Daboll and general manager Joe Schoen. They also won their first playoff game since 2011 when they beat the Minnesota Vikings in the wild-card round last week.
Barkley had nine carries for 61 yards in the loss to the Eagles. It could be his last game as a Giant, even if that is not his preference.
"Like I said, I couldn't imagine that being the last time being in a Giants uniform," Barkley said. "But that is the nature of the business. I can't control any of that. It comes with it. I've been vocal about how I feel. I'm excited for the future no matter what happens."
Barkley isn't the only major free agent the Giants have to make a decision on this offseason. Quarterback Daniel Jones' contract also expires at the end of the league year.
Jones had the fifth-year option on his rookie contract declined before this season. He then proceeded to post the best season of his career, leading the Giants to the playoffs and turning the ball over just nine times in 18 starts, including the playoffs.
The first-round pick in 2019 out of Duke was noncommittal about his desire to remain with the Giants immediately following Saturday night's loss. His tune was different the following day.
"Right now, more than anything thinking about this year and this team. The guys and how grateful I am to be a part of it. A special group of guys," Jones said. "I've really enjoyed being here, have nothing but love and respect for this organization. I'd love to be back.
"But we'll see. There is a business side of it too."
The Giants have until March 7 to decide on whether they want to use the franchise tag on players.