Saquon Barkley could have a new suitor on the West Coast.
The two-time Pro-Bowler, who is an unrestricted free agent this offseason after spending six seasons with the Giants, may be a target for new Chargers head coach Jim Harbaugh, according to Harbaugh’s former teammate Ryan Leaf.
“Austin Ekeler’s a big part of what it could be with them running the football, but I do think that Saquon Barkley’s going to be at the top of [Harbaugh]’s list, in terms of, what he wants to do with the running back position with him being a free agent,” Leaf said Friday on “Good Morning Football.”
Barkley’s relationship with the Giants soured last offseason when he initially refused to sign the team’s franchise tag in hopes that he’d get a contract extension, eventually giving in and signing a $10.1 million guaranteed deal on the tag.
“I think they could franchise tag him again, I know that’s a lot of money. But it’s something I know that Jim Harbaugh wants to do. He wants to run the football, and he wants to use those guys down the field with play-action.”
However, Barkley is likely to demand a sizable contract, and the Chargers don’t have money to spend — the Justin Herbert-led squad is over $45 million in the red in terms of cap space, per Over the Cap.
After a playoff berth in 2022, the Chargers collapsed last year following an injury to Herbert, finishing 5-12 and fourth in the AFC West.
Barkley, the 2018 Rookie of the Year, totaled 962 yards and six touchdowns on the ground last year while adding 280 yards and four touchdowns in the air.
The Chargers have the No. 5 pick in the upcoming draft and look set to bounce back after a disappointing season with Herbert and Harbaugh at the helm.
“It’s gonna be a team, think of a family,” Harbaugh said in a recent team hype video. “There’s gonna be ignitors. There’s gonna be leaders by example. That’s mostly what I do.
“We’re gonna attack ‘em with an enthusiasm unknown to mankind. And this is where I want to be, nowhere else.”