Everyone else had already wondered. On Friday, Darren Sproles weighed in on the hot topic around the NovaCare Complex water cooler.
How explosive can the Eagles’ offense be in 2014, especially with the NFL running back version of the Swiss Army Knife just added in?
“I feel ...” Sproles said, with a long pause that almost seemed intended for added drama, “that it could get real crazy.”
Sproles, the dynamic tailback/return specialist who came to the Eagles on Thursday in exchange for a measly fifth-round pick to New Orleans, expressed a much happier sentiment about being dealt to Chip Kelly’s team than he did about the Saints’ plans to release or trade him.
Fearing he’d be shipped to some aimless organization without a playoff nucleus, the 5-foot-6, 181-pound veteran had asked the Saints to outright release him. Even his wife took to social media to complain.
But when they informed him that Philadelphia would be his next stop, Sproles’ fears were calmed. The Eagles, he said, were on his short list of teams to target if the Saints had granted his release request.
“I just wanted a choice,” he said. “I didn’t want them to put me on a team or wherever that really didn’t fit me. That’s why I wanted to be released, so I could really choose.”
“When I heard it [was Philadelphia], I was just happy. They could have traded me somewhere where I didn’t want to be. So I was real happy about it.”
Happy enough to sign a two-year contract extension Friday that potentially removes the one-year rental tag and could keep Sproles with the Eagles through 2016.
Sproles, who turns 31 in June, has the opportunity to stick around beyond this season if he can convince Kelly that age and an outdoor stadium haven’t slowed him down. The deal runs through 2016 and will pay Sproles $10.5 million over three years, with $5.5 million guaranteed, according to ProFootballTalk's Mike Florio. He had been set to earn $3.5 million in the final year of his contract with New Orleans.
Sproles expects to upgrade the return units and add another dimension to the Eagles' offense, which lacks a pass-catching back of his caliber and didn’t rely much on two-back formations in Kelly’s first season.
“I think it’ll be fun,” he said. “For me, watching [Kelly] last year from a distance, they do a lot of good stuff, [create] a lot of space. So I like that.”
Kelly is already familiar with the damage Sproles can inflict.
It was Sproles’ breakaway kick return down the right sideline late in the fourth quarter of the Eagles’ first-round playoff game, coupled with Cary Williams’ 15-yard facemask, that staked Drew Brees and the Saints inside Eagles territory and led to Shayne Graham’s game-winning 33-yard field goal as time expired at the Linc.
The Eagles lost 26-24 in their first playoff game since the 2010 season. Kelly brought it up in their first discussion after Sproles arrived at his new headquarters.
“Yeah, he did,” Sproles said. “That’s in the past, though.”
As for the future?
Sproles said he feels great, even as he nears his 31st birthday. He’s “not much of a pounder,” obviously, so he’s not worried about the collection of hits he’s absorbed over his eight-year career.
On an offense with LeSean McCoy, DeSean Jackson, Jeremy Maclin, Riley Cooper, Brent Celek and Zach Ertz, Sproles isn’t likely to come anywhere near the 71 receptions and 53 carries he logged last season.
But he doesn’t seem to mind. Sproles has only one request about how to be used in his new offense: “Anywhere in space.”
Eagles cut WR Anderson
The Eagles on Friday released wide receiver Joe Anderson, who they had signed after the season ended.
Anderson, 25, played nine games with the Bears in 2012 and 2013 after signing with Chicago as a rookie free agent out of Texas Southern. He has one career target, no career catches, and forced two fumbles on special teams for the Bears as a rookie.