A day after shoring up their special teams unit with a couple of lower-profile acquisitions, the Eagles made a bit more of a splash Thursday morning trading for New Orleans Saints running back/return man Darren Sproles for a draft pick.
Eagles have acquired Sproles from the Saints
— Jason La Canfora (@JasonLaCanfora) March 13, 2014
The 30-year-old back out of Kansas State will join an already potent offensive attack and most certainly add a dynamic element to what was a disappointing return game for the Eagles last season. A lot has been made regarding the Saints and their treatment of Sproles, an invaluable asset to their offense the last few season. Despite the veteran’s proclamations that he preferred a clean release from New Orleans rather than a trade, the Saints clearly had a market for Sproles and will receive value for him in the form of an undisclosed draft pick.
Sproles is coming off of a down year in 2013. He saw his all purpose numbers go down, he was not quite as electrifying in the return game, and was much less of a factor down the stretch and in the playoffs as the Saints focused a bit more on a power running game. Nevertheless, he has overcome doubters since he first stepped on an NFL field due to his size and succeeded at every stop along the way.
As far as where Sproles will fit with Chip Kelly’s offense, Eagles fans should refresh themselves with the concept of the ‘TAZR’ player. When he was still at Oregon, Kelly implemented a concept that highlighted versatile players, much like Sproles, who could hurt defenses in a multitude of ways. The Tazer players are often among the most versatile players on the field and are given every opportunity to have their unique skill-set highlighted in Kelly’s game plan.
Much like incumbent LeSean McCoy, Sproles is a major threat in the passing game. His ability to be split out wide in addition to his expertise in the screen game has made him a lethal target for Drew Brees over the past three seasons and Philip Rivers before him. According to @RoobCSN, Sproles has 232 catches since 2011 which lead all running backs.
The compensation for Sproles will be a 5th round pick in the 2014 draft that the Eagles acquired from New England in the Isaac Sopoaga trade.
Source: the Saints receive the 2014 5th round pick New England sent for Isaac Sopoaga in exchange for RB Darren Sproles.
— Field Yates (@FieldYates) March 13, 2014
So essentially trading a bust free agent defensive lineman for Darren Sproles a year later is what the acquisition amounts to. Since the team acquired him via trade, the Eagles will only be on the hook for one year of Sproles’ contract that he signed with the Saints prior to the 2011 season. He is set to be paid $3.4 million before becoming a free agent in 2015. For a slight player who has seen his game decline the last few seasons, the Eagles should feel fortunate that they did not have to sign him for multiple years. Both sides may end up benefiting from this situation, as Chip Kelly’s offense has brought out the best in players in his first season as an NFL coach. It will be interesting to see if the Eagles decide to move one of their young, backup running backs in accordance with the Sproles acquisition. Although this is certainly a possibility, the organization places great value on Bryce Brown and Chris Polk. It is possible for the Eagles to keep both players and Sproles heading into 2014. The former Saint and Charger could essentially fill the role that many expected Damaris Johnson to fill prior to his disappointing 2013 campaign.
It should be interesting to hear what Howie Roseman and Chip Kelly have to say about their new weapon. As always, keep it tuned to Section215.com, follow us on Twitter @Sec215, and “Like” our Facebook page to keep up with all Eagles free agency and now trade activity for the 2014 offseason.