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March 13, 2019

What running backs should interest the Eagles, now that Le'Veon Bell is out of the way?

Eagles NFL

Now that Le'Veon Bell has signed with the New York Jets, we may begin to see some other running backs around the league sign with teams. The Philadelphia Eagles will be among those teams shopping for one. Fortunately for them, Bell's deal did not break the bank, thus potentially keeping the bar reasonable for the next tier of backs.

Here are five running backs I believe make sense for the Eagles.

Tevin Coleman (25), Falcons (6'1, 205)

In four seasons with the Falcons, Coleman has been an efficient player, rushing for 4.4 yards per carry, and averaging 11.0 yards per reception (outstanding for a RB) on 92 receptions. His year-by-year rushing numbers:

 Tevin ColemanRush Yards YPC TD 
 201587 392 4.5 
 2016118 520 4.4 
 2017156 628 4.0 
 2018167 800 4.8 
 TOTAL528 2340 4.4 18 

As you can see, Coleman's heaviest usage was in 2018, when he had just 167 carries, or just 10.4 per game. 

And his receiving numbers:

Tevin Coleman Rec Yards YPC TD 
 201514 7.0 
 201631 421 13.6 
 201727 299 11.1 
 201832 276 8.6 
 TOTAL92 1010 11.0 11 

A highlight reel:

Because he only has 620 career touches (that's essentially 1.5 seasons for Ezekiel Elliott, by comparison), Coleman should still have fresh legs. He's also coming off his best season in terms of yards per carry, at 4.8.

The Eagles aren't likely to try to find a three-down "bell cow" back, and frankly, there is good reason not to dump heavy resources into trying to land one. The primary reason for not drafting RBs early is because they have short shelf lives, in terms of the length of their careers. I think that also holds true over the course of a long season, and maybe the Rams' Todd Gurley, who was awesome early in the season but not so much in the playoffs, is a case study in that. 

Coleman is one of the best "rotational" backs in the NFL, and could be a very productive player who shares the load in the Eagles' offense. I believe he would be the player who improved the Eagles the most among the available backs, but what will the cost be?

T.J. Yeldon (25), Jaguars (6'1, 223)

In the same way that Coleman's mileage is low because he played alongside Davonta Freeman, Yeldon was used similarly in Jacksonville, playing behind Leonard Fournette.

First, a look at Yeldon's rushing numbers: 

 T.J. YeldonRush Yards YPC TD 
 2015182 740 4.1 
 2016130 465 3.6 
 201749 253 5.2 
 2018104 414 4.0 

And his receiving numbers:

T.J. Yeldon Rec Yards YPC TD 
 201536 279 7.8 
 201650 312 6.2 
 201730 224 7.5 
 201855 487 8.9 

Yeldon is a bigger back, and is thought to be very good in pass protection, which the Eagles value highly. He has similar measurables to Jay Ajayi, at 6'1, 223. In 3rd- and 4th-and-short situations over his career, Yeldon has 22 carries for 90 yards (12 first downs) and 3 TDs. That's a small sample size for a back who has been in the league for four years, but it's certainly a major step up from what Josh Adams provided in 2018. He also has 9 catches for 69 yards (8 first downs) in those short yardage situations.

A look at what he does:

Yeldon would be a more affordable option than Coleman, who could come into Philly a be part of a rotation, along with Corey Clement and perhaps a rookie draft pick.

MORE: Eagles 2019 offseason roster moves, rumor mill, and free agency tracker | Updated Eagles 2019 depth chart

Spencer Ware (27), Chiefs (5'10, 229)

Ware is another big-bodied back at 229 pounds, and like Coleman above, he has been an efficient runner when given opportunities in the Chiefs' offense. His career numbers:

 Spencer WareRush Yards YPC TD 
 2013 (Seahawks)10 3.3 
 2015 (Chiefs)72 403 5.6 
 2016 (Chiefs)214 921 4.3 
 2018 (Chiefs)51 246 4.8 

As a receiver, Ware, like Coleman and Yeldon above, is productive:

Spencer Ware Rec Yards YPC TD 
 2013 (Seahawks)0.0 
 2015 (Chiefs)0.8 
 2016 (Chiefs)33 447 13.5 
 2018 (Chiefs)20 224 11.2 

Ware's career yards per catch is 11.5, which again, is excellent for a running back.

Ware played under Doug Pederson in 2015, and during that season, he ran for 5.6 yards per carry. Covering Pederson over the last few years, I recalling him talking about Ware, so I went back and searched old press conference transcripts, and by my count, Pederson mentioned Ware in a positive way on at least three occasions, unprompted.

There are injury concerns, but I believe the Eagles could have interest in him as a rotational back.

Bilal Powell (30), Jets (5'10, 204)

Powell is older, and a very unsexy player, but his production is good. He has averaged at least 4.3 yards per carry in each of the last six seasons in awful Jets offenses. He also has 204 career receptions, and is thought of a good pass protector. A quick look:

Again, as a rotational back, he would make sense as a short-term option.

Corey Grant (27), Jaguars (5'11, 203)

My friend Tommy Lawlor at likes Grant quite a bit, and he has good reasoning why.

He’s only 5-9, 201, but has legit 4.3 speed. He averages 5.6 yards per carry for his career. Grant is a guy with limited production, but good upside. It feels like the Jags have wasted his talent. Creative offensive coaches like the Eagles staff could have some real fun with a weapon like him.

Go check out more on Grant from Tommy, including a highlight of Grant dusting the Patriots' defense.

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