Saquon Barkley switches to NFC East rival, agrees to deal with Eagles

In an alternate universe, Saquon Barkley never would have hit free agency at a prime age. He would have been one of the rare running backs to get a long-term deal.

Barkley was one of the greatest running back prospects ever, the second pick of the 2018 NFL Draft and an NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year after a monster season. Then his career stalled.

Barkley didn’t get a long-term extension from the New York Giants before he hit free agency, but their NFC East rival Philadelphia Eagles were willing to pay up. Barkley agreed to a deal with the Eagles on Monday, a few hours into the so-called tampering period. According to Yahoo Sports' Jori Epstein, it's a three-year deal worth $37.75 million with $26 million guaranteed.

In a move to fill the void left by Barkley, the Giants agreed to a deal with former Houston Texans running back Devin Singletary, according to multiple reports. Singletary joins the Giants after tallying 1,091 yards and four touchdowns from scrimmage in Houston last season and could be the lead back in New York in 2024.

Barkley, meanwhile, seemed pleased about joining the Giants' rival.

Barkley might not have become the player everyone was anticipating when he came out of Penn State, but he’s still a valuable playmaker. Even at a position that has been devalued by the NFL. And now he gets to play in a very good Eagles offense.

Saquon Barkley wanted a long deal

Last offseason, Barkley was one of the key figures in the debate over the value of running backs. Barkley wanted a long-term deal. The Giants gave him the franchise tag. Barkley wasn’t happy with it, but reported on a modified deal that gave him more incentives.

Barkley played his season on the franchise tag, had a solid season with 962 rushing yards in 14 games, and then the Giants didn’t give him a second tag.

Some players like Derrick Henry and Christian McCaffrey got huge long-term deals, and for a while it looked like Barkley would be in that class.

In Barkley’s rookie season, he had 2,028 total yards from scrimmage and 15 touchdowns. That came after a ton of hype for him in the draft. His size and agility made him nearly a perfect prospect for the position. He looked like a lock for long-term stardom.

Barkley never replicated that rookie season. An ACL injury in 2020 set him back. He had a good 2022 season with 1,312 rushing yards and 10 touchdowns, earning him his first Pro Bowl nod since his rookie season.

Injuries and an often bad situation around him in New York held Barkley back. That’s a big part of the reason he was a free agent this offseason. Now Giants fans get to see up close if Barkley does better in Philadelphia.

Eagles spend on a RB

The Eagles have often gone with cheaper running back options, which made sense for a forward-thinking front office. They have often gotten good production out of those running backs as well.

Spending big on Barkley, with a large amount guaranteed, is telling. They believe in Barkley's talent and him being a star in their offense.

A unit with Barkley, Jalen Hurts, A.J. Brown, DeVonta Smith and others will be fun to watch. The offense took a hit with center Jason Kelce's retirement, but it will still be the best line Barkley has ever run behind. It also might be good for him to not be the entire focal point of every defensive game plan.

The Eagles have seen Barkley twice a year over his career. They were obviously impressed. Now the Giants, who couldn't reach a long-term deal with Barkley, have to stop him.