The Eagles needed a running back, and LeGarrette Blount was the best option remaining on the free-agent market. A one-year, incentive-laden, minimally guaranteed deal makes sense.
Before declaring the Blount signing a victory for the Eagles, just be aware of exactly what the offense is getting.
Blount posted impressive totals in 2016 with 1,161 yards on the ground and a league-leading 18 rushing touchdowns during the regular season. He also led the NFL with 5.4 yards per carry in short-yardage situations, which have long been an issue for the Eagles.
Blount also averaged a subpar 3.9 yards over all 299 of his carries, which ranked 30th out of 42 qualifying backs. He managed just seven receptions on the year as well, accounting for almost 10 percent of his career output as a receiver.
Blount may be the best short-yardage back in the league, but he’s one-dimensional. He provides no support for the passing attack, thus defenses stack eight men in the box when they see him coming.
Obviously, the New England Patriots thought better about retaining such a limited player, which should be reason enough to give pause to any celebration.
The Patriots have a track record of turning castoffs and role players into stars. That’s relevant here, too, because Blount never enjoyed near the same success in stints with the Tennessee Titans, Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Pittsburgh Steelers.
Why will his luck be any different with the Eagles?
The closest Blount came to becoming a feature back prior to joining the Patriots were his first two seasons in the league. Released by the Titans out of training camp, Blount caught on with the Bucs and managed to eclipse 1,000 yards as a rookie. He quickly fell out of favor, was reduced to 41 carries by year three and allowed to depart as a free agent.
Blount spent 2013 restoring his value with the Patriots, then joined the Steelers. That arrangement didn’t last long, either, as he was released after 11 games, before finding his way back to New England, where he spent the past two-and-a-half years.
Blount racked up 2,917 yards and 34 rushing touchdowns in parts of four seasons with the Patriots, where he helped carry the team to a pair of Super Bowl championships. In parts of four seasons spent with the Titans, Bucs and Steelers, he totaled 2,205 yards and 15 touchdowns on the ground and was released twice. Now, he’s 30.
None of which is to say Blount can’t help the Eagles. At 6-foot-0, 250 pounds, he brings size, power and a veteran presence to a backfield that is likely to lose Ryan Mathews. Even with Mathews, the Eagles ranked 26th in short-yardage situations in '16.
Blount could be less effective in those situations and still be of service. Merely putting him on the field has defenses guessing run, opening up play action and bootlegs for Carson Wentz.
Frankly, the Eagles needed a veteran back to come in and compete with the current group, not to mention a bigger back who can handle 200-plus carries.
Nonetheless, Blount is the definition of a Band-Aid, and it’s unclear whether he’s enough to cover the gaping hole the Eagles have at running back. He’s only really experienced success with the best team in the league, and his skill set doesn’t especially fit the west coast offense.
With only $400,000 of his salary for 2017 guaranteed, it appears the Eagles may share similar concerns.
This was a move the Eagles absolutely needed to make, but one that is far from assured of working out. As long as everybody is aware of that going in, Blount won’t disappoint.