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Early Look at What the Eagles Running Back Situation Could Look Like

The Eagles have a lot of work to do this offseason. The team needs to add multiple offensive weapons. As of right now the team needs at least two receivers and you could make the case for three, but what really needs to be talk about is the running back situation. The Eagles currently have Ryan Mathews, Darren Sproles, Wendell Smallwood, Byron Marshall all under contract for the 2017 season. Darren Sproles and Smallwood will both be back and Marshall will be another camp body and from there it was be determined if he will be on the active roster. Ryan Mathews is almost a lock to be released sometime in the next two months as it would save $4 million on the cap. 

Darren Sproles can’t be used the same this year. Sproles had a career high 94 rushing attempts in 2016 and he will turn 34 this upcoming year. Sproles is still one of the best punt returners in the game to go along with is ability to be a reliable change up back in this league. However, like I have already stated, Sproles is 33 and the Eagles need to get younger. This is probably the last year Sproles will be on the team so Howie Roseman and Joe Douglas need to find a replacement and that search could come this year. 

Now let’s look at the free agents this year. There are a few free agents that could and should interest the Eagles in free agency. The first back I’ll talk about is Latavius Murray. Murray is a big back standing at 6’3” weighing 225 pounds. Murray has been running behind one of the best offensive lines in football the last two years. If you look at his stats though you can see that Murray isn’t the greatest of backs. The last two years he has averaged just four yards per carry and that’s not ideal. Latavius does however find the endzone often scoring 18 rushing touchdowns since 2015. Murray thrives taking the handoff with the quarterback under center and running up the middle. With the Eagles, if they really want to bring in Murray they will have to put faith in Isaac Seumalo who will more then likely be the starting center next year. Does signing Murray make sense? Of course, but I don’t think he’s worth what he is bound to get paid. If the market is somewhere around $4-$5 million annually then I would consider Murray as strong possibility.

Next, Jamaal Charles. Charles used to be one of the best running backs in the league before having his last two seasons cut short due to knee injuries. The Chiefs released Charles yesterday and the Eagles are expected to show interest in the former Longhorn product. Charles turned 30 this December and with the state the Eagles are in he doesn’t make sense to be the lead back on the team. Charles just can’t be relied on to be the workhorse running that he once was. That doesn’t mean I wouldn’t sign Charles. Draft a back in the mid rounds and have Charles as the starter to begin the year. Charles already has a taste of what Doug Pederson is about with his time in Kansas City. Jamaal could provide the running backs a guide and especially with the team likely to draft one early in this years draft. 

Last, Eddie Lacy. It has been a disappointing last two years for Lacy after he passed the century mark his first years in the league. Lacy has battled weight problems the last few years and it seems as if the Packers are ready to move on from the former Rookie of the Year winner. Lacy did finish the year averaging 5.1 yards per carry and that was behind one of the better run blocking teams in the NFL. Signing Lacy would cost around $5 – $7 million annually and I don’t think that’s worth when you can’t trust Lacy week in and week out.

Resolution: The Eagles need to bring in a back that can play in the system Pederson is running and Jamaal Charles has that experience. Today Pederson was quoted saying, “he [Charles] is a tremendous running back”. While his age and durability don’t fit with what the Eagles are trying to do it would allow the Eagles to be not so reliant on a rookie running back. 

-Sean Brennan