Before they traded for Darren Sproles, the Eagles first tried to add a younger, more dynamic weapon to their offense.
The Eagles contacted the Bills this offseason with hopes of trading for versatile Pro Bowl running back C.J. Spiller, according to two league sources familiar with the situation. The Bills weren’t interested in moving Spiller, both sources said, and talks never heightened into an offer.
But it’s clear that the Eagles were looking to add a different dimension to their offense as they prepared to part ways with Pro Bowl wideout DeSean Jackson, another indication that Chip Kelly had planned to move on from Jackson well before the team released him March 28.
Reports that the Saints were prepared to release Sproles first surfaced March 7, so the Eagles had likely spoken to Buffalo officials in February about trying to acquire Spiller, the former Clemson star who was the ninth overall pick in 2010.
It’s obvious why the Bills wouldn’t want to deal Spiller, one of the NFL’s better pass-catching running backs and an excellent returner.
Spiller, 26, has 3,021 career rushing yards, 1,070 receiving yards, 1,157 kick return yards and 302 punt-return yards to go along with 18 touchdowns.
Hall of Fame running back Gale Sayers is the only other player in NFL history with at least 3,000 rushing yards, 1,000 receiving yards, 1,150 kick-return yards and 300 punt-return yards in his first four seasons.
Spiller’s 933 rushing yards, 1,118 offensive yards and two touchdowns last season were big dropoffs from 2012, when he registered a career-best 1,244 yards, 1,703 offensive yards and eight offensive touchdowns, which is perhaps why the Eagles felt they could pry him away from Buffalo, but Bills quarterbacks were besieged by injuries.
Spiller’s career 5.1 yards-per-carry average is second among active running backs with at least 590 carries, trailing only three-time Pro Bowler Jamaal Charles (5.51).
By instead dealing a fifth-round pick to New Orleans for Sproles, who turns 31 in June, the Eagles still diversified their offense with a pass-catching halfback to complement LeSean McCoy -- the league’s reigning rushing champion -- and a dynamic returner.
Since 2007, Sproles leads the NFL with 13,806 all-purpose yards and ranks first among running backs in receptions (375), receiving yards (3,371) and receiving touchdowns (27). He also has five career return touchdowns on punts (three) and kickoffs (two).