Eagles Blasted For Saquon Barkley Deal: ‘Not That Player Anymore’ - Sport News

Eagles Blasted For Saquon Barkley Deal: ‘Not That Player Anymore’

There’s a school of thought that running backs don’t matter in the NFL, but the Philadelphia Eagles are about to put that theory to the test.

Eagles

After agreeing to terms with All-Pro Saquon Barkley on a three-year deal worth upwards of $12.58 million per season with $26 million fully guaranteed, the Eagles are betting big that the former No. 2 overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft is the missing piece to elevate an offense that regressed dramatically in 2023.

Not everyone is buying it.

ESPN’s Seth Walder offered biting criticism of general manager Howie Roseman departing from the Eagles’ longstanding philosophy of not paying top-dollar to running backs, and committing to Barkley, in particular.

“Investing real money in a free agent running back seems like a philosophical shift for the Eagles — and probably not for the better,” Walder writes. “While I think Barkley is more attractive than some of the other free agent options (like Josh Jacobs, D’Andre Swift or Tony Pollard), more than $12 million annually with $26 million fully guaranteed is a steep price to pay for any running back — let alone one entering his seventh NFL season.

“In order to justify that kind of money we’d have to believe Barkley is transcendent. While he’s a huge name, the numbers don’t suggest that he’s that level of player anymore. Barkley managed 0.4 rushing yards over expectation per carry in 2023 — a metric that at least partially controls for run blocking — with the Giants. He was good, not great. With better run blocking I’d bet his box score numbers improve in 2024, but they would for most backs headed to the Eagles.”

Injuries have certainly plagued Barkley’s career, with the former Penn State standout already having dealt with a torn ACL, a high-ankle sprain, and multiple ankle injuries so far in his career.

However, when healthy, Barkley remains among the most explosive and versatile running backs in the sport.

Why Eagles’ Saquon Barkley Bet Could Offer Big Payoff
Barkley wouldn’t be the first running back to arrive onto a contending roster only to lift it to new heights.

Christian McCaffrey‘s impact on the San Francisco 49ers could prove a parallel for the impact Barkley has the potential to make for the Eagles’ Super Bowl aspirations over the life of his deal.

Since the 49ers acquired McCaffrey before the NFL trade deadline in 2022, the 27-year-old has scored 31 total touchdowns in 26 games while producing 3,233 yards from scrimmage.

In New York, Barkley was mired behind, as Sharp Football points out, the league’s 31st-ranked offensive line in run-block win percentage and the No. 30-ranked run-blocking offensive line during the 2023 season. The Eagles’ line ranked No. 1 and No. 3 in those categories, respectively, last season.

Even behind a shoddy offensive line, Barkley rattled off 26 explosive runs in 2023, averaging 2.91 yards after contact. It isn’t difficult to picture what those numbers will look like with bigger running lanes and contact coming later in the down.

Meanwhile, neither Pat Shurmur nor Joe Judge seemed to grasp the threat Barkley poses to defenses in space in the passing game. Through his first five seasons (removing the 2020 campaign that ended in Week 2 due to a torn ACL), Barkley averaged 57.6 receptions per season.

Then there’s the fact that Barkley finished as the No. 4 ranked pass-blocking running back in the NFL, according to PFF. There’s a very real possibility Barkley will make a significant impact on Jalen Hurts and play a big role in keeping him upright.

Given how the Eagles use running backs in the receiving game, combined with one of the preeminent run-blocking offensive lines in the NFL, Barkley just might hold the key to a Jalen Hurts revival and Philadelphia’s offense returning to form.

What Cam Jurgens Brings to Eagles’ Running Game
The Eagles will be turning to Cam Jurgens to fill a massive void left behind by Jason Kelce’s retirement.

However, Jurgens has the potential to play a vital role in Barkley’s and the Eagles’ offense’s success in 2024.

As Pro Football Focus points out, Jurgens posted a 62.9 run-blocking grade in 650 snaps at right guard. The move to center for Jurgens will figure significantly into the trajectory of Philadelphia’s offense.

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