The Giants declined to offer Orleans Darkwa a tender when the running back was a restricted free agent last offseason.
The Giants instead re-signed Darkwa to a one-year contract worth up to $1.1 million when free agency opened. That signaled a discount for the Giants from the minimum restricted free agent tender of $1.797 million.
Darkwa had little leverage after finishing last season on injured reserve due to the fractured tibia that plagued him for two years. But Darkwa is earning some negotiating power with a breakout season before becoming an unrestricted free agent this offseason.
"At the end of the day, I don't look towards the future right now," Darkwa said. "I'm focused on the team right now. I let the future play itself out. Right now I'm focused on the team and getting wins."
Darkwa said he "definitely" wants to return to the Giants next season. That feeling should be mutual, as Darkwa has blossomed since taking over after No. 1 running back Paul Perkins was sidelined by a ribs injury in Week 5.
Darkwa is averaging 5.3 yards per carry over the past five games. His season average of 5.1 yards per carry is sixth among running backs.
"I cherish the opportunity, but at the end of the day, I feel like I'm not doing enough to get the wins on the board," Darkwa said. "We got to do more as a team to get these wins and I feel like if there's anything I can do to improve as a back and improve my game to help the team win, that's what I'm trying to improve."
Darkwa's contract has a minimum base salary of $690,000 with a $200,000 signing bonus and another $200,000 available through per game roster bonuses. The roster bonuses were a logical incentive for the Giants to add after Darkwa missed six games last season.
Darkwa was inactive in Week 4 with a minor back injury, but he has played in the other eight games. Staying healthy has been a major emphasis for Darkwa, who had a steel plate surgically inserted into his left shin last December.
"I'm spending as much money as possible to make sure I'm ready to go," Darkwa said. "Whether that's massage or whatever it is - stretching, all those types of things. That's just something I've tried to invest in and continue to do. I think I've said it before, but Rashad (Jennings) helped me with that, telling me that your body is your temple and invest in it as much as possible. So, that's probably where my money has gone to the most."
Darkwa should get a big return on that investment if he's able to stay healthy and productive over the final seven weeks of the season.