Well, I hope everyone is happy. The Philadelphia Eagles finally added a coveted, overpaid, aging veteran during this free agency period, sending a fifth-round pick to the New Orleans Saints in exchange for running back/all-purpose weapon Darren Sproles.
This is a swap that would’ve been fresh and exciting maybe two years ago. Now, Sproles is about to turn 31 and is coming off one of the least productive seasons in his nine-year NFL career.
Sproles ran 53 times for just 220 yards (4.2 AVG) and two touchdowns in 2013, although the ground attack wasn't what he was known for. The '05 fourth-round pick still managed to reel in 71 passes, but for only 604 yards (8.5 AVG) and two touchdowns. His return numbers were as bad as they’ve ever been—21.3 on kickoffs, 6.7 on punts, zero scores. He also lost two fumbles.
The playoffs weren’t significantly better. In two games, Sproles carried seven times for 31 yards (4.4 AVG) and posted nine receptions for 63 (7.0 AVG) with zero TDs. Including the postseason, he broke 40 yards receiving just once in his final 11 games as a Saint.
Simply put, Sproles lost the explosion that once made him a special player. Look no further than his kick return to set up the Saints’ game-winning score in the Birds’ first-round playoff exit. If Sproles had that enormous of a hole to run through two years ago, nobody catches him, yet Cary Williams was able to corral him by the collar.
Sure, Sproles will catch a high number of balls out of the backfield, which is not an altogether useless skill, but so could a well-placed bucket.
At this point, you might be thinking to yourself, ‘So what, it was only a fifth-round pick.’ I’ll take the pick, thank you. That was Earl Wolff last year, who looks like a potential starter at safety.
In this year’s draft, it could be more. Thanks to a record number of underclassmen entering the selection process, this is a considerably deep draft. There is talent to be found in the fifth round—including at running back, potentially.
Wouldn’t you much rather have De’Anthony Thomas out of Oregon for that pick, somebody who already knows Chip Kelly’s offense, isn’t in his 30s and would have more than one year remaining on his contract?
A fifth-round pick is far from guaranteed to be an NFL player, but neither will Sproles anymore soon enough.
Sproles is entering the final year of his deal and is scheduled to make $3.4 million.
Sproles’ presence could mean the front office is ready to act on a Bryce Brown trade this offseason. Brown didn’t appear to be a great fit for Kelly’s scheme, and if they get the pick back that was exchanged for Sproles, the whole series of moves is something of a wash.
Still, it cannot be understated that Sproles is 31, on the final year of his deal and fading. Brown will be 23, is under contract and has flashed Pro Bowl potential.
Is this trade the end of the world? No, in fact my guess is Sproles will be at least serviceable in his role in Kelly’s offense. With all that talent surrounding him in the league’s No. 2 offense, there will be opportunities to make plays.
Yet given the Eagles’ approach to the rest of this offseason so far—avoiding expensive, big-name players as deftly as LeSean McCoy eludes Louis Delmas in the snow—it’s difficult for me to wrap my head around this. There’s been so much talk of a plan that relies on building through the draft, yet the front office is shipping off a valuable pick for somebody who probably won’t even be here a year from now.
Call me a curmudgeon or a hater, but this is a baffling trade. Maybe the Eagles can squeeze the last drops of football out of Sproles. Then again, it’s not like the offense even needed him. Weird move, giving up a draft pick for a beat-up rental at the club’s strongest position.