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Saquon Barkley to the Eagles would start a wild new NFC East chapter



The Philadelphia Eagles had interest in Saquon Barkley last year, sources say. But the Giants tagged him, so he never made it to free agency.

Now Barkley is hitting the open market, and a trip down I-95 South is not far-fetched.

From MetLife Stadium to Lincoln Financial Field? That’d be a short drive but a dramatic shift in this heated NFC East rivalry.

It would certainly be a popular move in the Lehigh Valley region of eastern Pennsylvania, where Barkley grew up around tons of Eagles fans, as he recalled during his rookie Giants season.

“My close friends are still Eagles fans,” Barkley said in Nov. 2018 before his first road trip to Philly. “They say they’re Eagles fans but they’re Barkley fans, as well. They’ll wear a Saquon jersey, but they’ll [still] be Eagles fans.”

Many years have passed, and Barkley and the Birds have fought many battles since. But the dynamic running back clearly would solve a big dilemma for a lot of people in Bethlehem, Allentown and Coplay, Pa., if he signed in South Philly.

The Eagles, of course, are only one suitor expected to be in this year’s Barkley market.

As the Daily News noted on Tuesday, the Baltimore Ravens, Las Vegas Raiders, Chicago Bears, New England Patriots, Houston Texans and Eagles are among the primary potential suitors with the resources, need and interest to possibly sign him.

The Ravens seemingly would present Barkley with the best chance to win. Imagine the AFC’s best wire-to-wire team for most of 2023 assembling an offense with Lamar Jackson, Barkley, Zay Flowers, Mark Andrews and a new No. 1 outside receiver.

The Patriots, Texans and Bears have the most money. Both Chicago and Houston also lost to a Barkley-centric Giants game plan in 2022: He had a combined 66 carries for 298 rushing yards and a touchdown in those victories.

Barkley doesn’t just want to be compensated and validated as a top back with his new contract, though. He wants to win. And along those lines, he wants his next team to utilize his full skill set.

He wants to be a major part of the passing game, to show that he can be someone else’s Christian McCaffrey when given the chance.

For any talk that he could still return to the Giants, Barkley just went through two seasons of disappointment related to exactly that issue: a lack of usage in the passing game while coming off the field frequently on third downs.

Maybe his market comes in low and he stays a Giant. It certainly isn’t trending that way, though.

The Giants made clear to people at the NFL Combine that they don’t see the value in paying a running back $10 million per year, sources say.

Barkley, on the other hand, believes he is an offensive weapon and not just a back. And the team that lands him will view and pay Barkley as he sees himself — not as the player they want him to be.

It is not Eagles GM Howie Roseman’s style, obviously, to fork over huge money and large contracts to running backs. So no one is saying that Philly’s offer to Barkley will be the highest.

But Roseman, head coach Nick Sirianni and offensive coordinator Kellen Moore understand that Barkley has dual-threat ability, and that a well-rounded back could be one component to help get Jalen Hurts and the offense back on track.

Not that Barkley is the only back available, far from it. This is a deep free-agent running back class that includes the Chargers’ Austin Ekeler, another productive dual-threat RB.

Roseman has several other roster holes to fill on a team that went down the tubes in the second half of 2023, as well.

There’s no guarantee that Barkley would be joining a winner by signing with Philadelphia now, either. The end of last season might have been an anomaly, but it seemed more reflective of larger problems afoot.

Regardless, it is fascinating to think of the possibility of Barkley suiting up in Eagle green.

It would mean the Giants held onto Barkley through last year’s trade deadline with a 2-6 record only to lose him for nothing to their most hated rival. It would mean facing Barkley twice a year in division.

It would mean the face of the Giants’ franchise chose the Eagles.

If that sounds humiliating, that’s because it would be.

Then Giants GM Joe Schoen would work on building a roster that could replace — and stop — his top offensive weapon.

Not easily said or done.

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