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May 08, 2017

Veteran running backs that make sense for the Eagles

At the running back position, the Philadelphia Eagles are long on smallness, and light on bigness. 

With free agency and the 2017 NFL Draft in the books, one of the Eagles' clear glaring needs heading into the regular season is a running back who can run in between the tackles and pick up first downs on short yardage. The Eagles drafted the diminutive Donnel Pumphrey in the fourth round of the draft, but with Ryan Mathews still almost certain to be released whenever he passes a physical, here's a look at the Eagles' top three running backs, and their size:

Player Height Weight 
 Darren Sproles5'6 190 
 Wendell Smallwood5'10 208 
 Donnel Pumphrey5'9 170 
AVERAGE 5'8 189 

Yep, the average height and weight of the Eagles' top three backs is 5'8, 189 pounds. 

The Eagles need to embiggen their running back corps, one way or the other. The Eagles reportedly signed 5'10, 220-pound undrafted free agent Corey Clement, who would fit that type of profile, but it's hard to imagine that the Eagles will feel overly confident heading into the season relying on an undrafted rookie to fill that role.

The most likely outcome is that the Eagles will wait for a veteran running back to be released and then sign him on the cheap, but if they decide to get a little frisky and deal for a veteran back already on another team, the following players would make some sense. To note, none of the players below are necessarily thought to be on the trading block, but would make some sense because of their teams' depth at the position:

Mark Ingram, Saints (5'10, 215)

Ingram is a physical runner who had an excellent 2016 season, rushing 205 times for 1043 yards (5.1 YPC) and 6 TDs. While he's 27-years old, an age where you begin to worry about the lifespan of a running back, he has had a relatively light workload over his career, with just 981 career carries (including the playoffs). By comparison, in just two more seasons, LeSean McCoy has 1936 career carries.

Ingram has also become an effective receiver out of the backfield for the Saints, catching 96 passes for 724 yards and 4 TDs over the last two seasons, so he would fit well in Doug Pederson's West Coast offense.

Then again, for all of the reasons above, he also has and should continue to fit in well in the Saints' offense. Curiously, however, the Saints signed Adrian Peterson to a two-year deal worth $7,500,000 ($3,500,000 guaranteed) and then traded significant draft capital to grab Alvin Kamara in the 2017 NFL Draft. With the San Francisco 49ers on the clock in the third round (pick No. 67), the Saints traded their second-round pick in 2018 and a seventh-round pick in 2017 for the Niners' pick, which they used to take Kamara.

As we noted this morning, the Saints lost center Max Unger for a substantial period of time, which will almost certainly re-start Jason Kelce trade speculation. Kelce, Jordan Matthews, and Mychal Kendricks would all make some level of sense for the Saints, though I doubt any of the three players would be enough to pull off a player-for-player trade.

Jeremy Hill, Bengals (6'1, 233)

After an impressive 2014 season as a rookie, Hill's numbers fell off in 2015 and 2016.

 Jeremy HillRush Yards YPC TD 
 2014222 1124 5.1 
 2015223 794 3.6 11 
 2016222 839 3.8 

As you can see, over the last three years, Hill has 29 rushing touchdowns. He was good in short yardage situations in 2015, not so good in 2016. Still, at just 24 years of age, Hill could be an effective member of a rotational running back group.

The Bengals have selected running backs with second-round picks in three of the last five years. They took Giovani Bernard in 2013, Hill in 2014, and Joe Mixon in 2017. Bernard remains with the team, while Mixon obviously isn't going anywhere. 

Hill is scheduled to become a free agent after the 2017 season. The Bengals could decide that it may be worth trying to get something in return for Hill rather than lose him for nothing in free agency next offseason, much like the Ravens did when they traded Timmy Jernigan to the Eagles for draft position in the third round.

LeGarrette Blount, free agent (6'1, 245)

Blount is available to all available suitors, as he is currently a free agent. As a workhorse for the New England Patriots a season ago, Blount racked up 299 carries for 1161 yards (3.9 YPC) and 18 TDs. However, it's fair to wonder how much he still has left in the tank at the age of 30. The Eagles are extremely tight against the cap, so signing Blount could pose a challenge.

According to Charles Robinson of Yahoo, the Lions and Giants have shown interest in Blount.

Matt Jones, Redskins (6'2, 231)

Last season, undrafted free agent Rob Kelley outplayed Jones, who was a third-round pick of the team in 2015. The Redskins also already have the shifty Chris Thompson on their roster as well as bowling ball fourth-round pick Samaje Perine.

Jones is on the trading block, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL Network.

In 2016, Jones' rushing numbers were good, when he carried the ball 99 times for 460 yards (4.6 YPC) and 3 TDs. However, in 270 career touches, Jones has eight fumbles. That's one fumble for every 33.8 touches. Fumbler extraordinaire Ryan Mathews, by comparison, has had six fumbles on 294 touches in his time with the Eagles, or one fumble every 49 touches.

Personally, if I were the Eagles and I had any interest in Jones, I'd give the Redskins nothing and just wait for him to be released. If another team moves in, so be it.

Carlos Hyde, 49ers (6'0, 230)

According to Tony Pauline of, the Niners were considering moving on from Hyde this offseason and potentially drafting Leonard Fournette.

Sources with knowledge of the situation tell me the San Francisco 49ers are very high on Fournette and are seriously considering using the second pick of the draft to acquire him. The new front office wants a bigger back to run the offense and they’re ready to give up on Carlos Hyde, who has had his struggles staying healthy since being drafted by the franchise in 2014.

They didn't take Fournette, but they did draft Joe Williams in the fourth round. Last season, in Chip Kelly's predictable offense that completely lacked a passing attack, Hyde still managed to run for 988 yards on 217 carries (4.6 YPC) and 6 TDs.

If there's any validity to Pauline's report, the Eagles should at least find out what the price would be.

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