Philadelphia Eagles: Darren Sproles should never retire

(Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
(Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images) /

In what may very well be his final game at the Linc, Darren Sproles had his best game with the Philadelphia Eagles. Maybe he shouldn’t retire after all?

Earlier this season, some writers (myself included) questioned why the Philadelphia Eagles opted to keep Darren Sproles on the active roster all season if he wasn’t going to play.

On the surface, this line of thinking made sense; why keep a 35-year-old running back on the active roster when he couldn’t find a way to get on the field? As running back after running back found their way onto IR with season-ending injuries, why was Sproles allowed to remain on the 53 man when he’s only appeared in one game between September and November?

Well, if the month of December is of any indication, I’d say he’s more than made up for it.

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So far this season, Sproles has appeared in five games for the Eagles, and the team has a 4-1 record over that tenure. While it’s hard to explicitly place any of those wins on Sproles’ shoulders alone, as he’s yet to receive more than 13 touches in a game, number 43 does a little bit of everything, and always seems to find a way to impact the game in one way or another.

And in Week 16, when the Doug Pederson‘s squad needed him most, Sproles awarded fans at Lincoln Financial Field with his best game in midnight green, in what could be his final home game as an Eagle.

While Sproles didn’t exactly light it up on the ground, as he only rushed for 32 yards on nine carries, he hauled in three passes for 76 yards, including an absolutely pivotal fourth down swing pass that put the Eagles up seven in the first quarter.

Add in an 11-yard return and Sproles finished out the game with 108 all-purpose yards, the most of any game since 2016.

Simply put; the Eagles would not have defeated the Houston Texans without Sproles on the field. Even at 35, it’s hard to argue that Sproles wasn’t the most elusive, shifty player on the field in a game that also featured Deshaun Watson and DeAndre Hopkins.

So why quit now?

I know Sproles expressed a desire to retire upon season’s end back in August, but he also said the same thing last season, but went back on those comments stating that he wanted to go out ‘on his own terms’.

This is admirable. While Sproles could have happily walked away from a Super Bowl champion, the final box that needed to be checked in his Hall of Fame campaign, he opted against it. For a player like Sproles, this would be a hollow victory. If this was indeed going to be his final opportunity to play football at the game’s highest level, why not go out on the field with his brothers?

If Sproles does, in fact, decide to retire upon season’s end, be that following Week 17, a playoff loss, or Super Bowl 53, then he will undoubtedly go out having left it all on the field down the stretch, but if he continues to play at such a high level, that too may feel hollow.

How would Sproles feel if the team were to reload next season and roll to another playoff berth? What if the team were to lose a pivotal playoff game due to poor punt return? Wouldn’t that just kill the 5-foot-6 rusher?

It’s not like Sproles’ tires are devoid of tread either.

Over the last two seasons, Sproles has only recorded 57 offensive touches or about two games for Rookie of the Year frontrunner Saquon Barkley. Averaging about eight touches a game between receiving, rushing, and returning, Sproles is one of the most lethal players in the league-per touch and could continue to play at a high-level, albeit in a similarly paced role.

Sure, he may miss some games here and there, as he missed all but three games in 2017, and 11 games in 2018, but when he’s actually able to go, there is not a single reserve player with more value in the entire league than Sproles.

That is why teams keep 53 players on their active roster, but only keep 46 players on their active roster, right? Typically, those spots are used for developing players like Shelton Gibson and Jordan Mailata, but if a team can utilize a one on a player like Sproles, they’d be crazy not to do it.

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Now granted, this is all predicated on Darren Sproles actually wanting to continue to play football, which is something we are not privy to at the moment, but if he does want to continue his professional football career, the Philadelphia Eagles would be crazy to move on from their most versatile offensive weapon, even if he wants to play until he’s 45 like Tom Brady.