Howie Roseman explains why he finally spent big on a running back

Howie Roseman explains why he finally spent big on a running back originally appeared on NBC Sports Philadelphia

ORLANDO, Fla. — The Eagles surprised everyone this offseason when they signed a free agent running back to a top-of-the-market deal.

And at the NFL’s annual league meetings in Orlando, general manager Howie Roseman finally got to explain why he signed Saquon Barkley.

“I think, for us, it’s hard to find special players at any position,” Roseman said. “We think Saquon’s a special player and we think he’s a special person. And when you’re trying to find those guys, they’re hard to find, especially on the open market.

“Then you put into the dynamic about … has the pendulum swung so far at this position? The guy touches the ball 300 times a year, hopefully. There’s not a lot of other skill position players that are touching the ball that many times and have that effect.”

The running back position has been devalued on the open market in the NFL for several years and the Eagles have been on the forefront of that. But if they were looking for a way to add a difference-making offensive skill player, they might have done that by signing Barkley to a three-year, $37.75 million deal.

Instead of paying D’Andre Swift or Tony Pollard around $8 million per season, the Eagles opted to hit the top of the market with Barkley, who is an undoubtedly special player when healthy.

Of course, this deal comes with some inherent risk. Barkley isn’t old but he is 27 and has the fifth most offensive touches in the NFL over the last three seasons.

The Eagles have thought about all that, though.

“Well, he’s not 30, 31. The guy is going to be 27 this season,” Roseman said. “We obviously looked at the workload. I think that that’s a fair point. … But the player trains unbelievably and he’s a freak. We see that in his testing numbers and his body, you see that in his GPS speed. And so we believe in the player and we think that based on the resources and where you can put resources and based on the resources that go at that amount in the league, that this made a lot of sense for us.”

When he’s at his best, Barkley is a tremendous player. There’s a reason he was the No. 2 pick in the 2018 class and his two Pro Bowl seasons have been elite. He’s also a really well-rounded player too. He is the type of back who can bounce but also pummel and run defensive players over. The Eagles will welcome that style in 2024. He can also pass protect and line up anywhere as a receiver.

Maybe it’s unfair to compare this signing to the 49ers’ acquisition of Christian McCaffrey but that move to add an elite back has completely changed the dynamic of the offensive in San Francisco. The Eagles have to be hoping for a similar output from Barkley.

Roseman on Monday pushed back against a narrative that the Eagles haven’t paid big for running backs. His two examples? A contract Brian Westbrook signed before Roseman was even GM and an extension for LeSean McCoy in the 2012 season.

So … the best examples Roseman could come up with were both well over a decade ago and were contracts for homegrown talent. This is a clear departure from the last decade. Roseman obviously thinks Barkley is worth it.

We’ll find out soon enough if he’s right.

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