The Eagles Biggest Off Season Need- RB Edition
By Dylan MacKinnon
This past season, the Eagles became the premiere rushing team in the NFL at about mid season. Nick Sirianni pivoted from barley running the ball, to almost exclusively running the ball. A lot of their success had to do with how well the o line is playing. But can you put anyone behind this line, or should they be looking to add another RB to better take advantage of this lines elite play? And the future of the RBs they do have is up in the air with Miles Sanders on the last year of his deal, and Jordan Howard a free agent. So with all that said, should the Eagles target another RB in the draft and or free agency this year?
Future of Miles Sanders
There is a debate amongst Eagles fans on whether or not the Eagles should resign Mile Sanders. I am firmly in the camp against signing Sanders. And it is nothing against Sanders, who when healthy is a very good RB. And its not even about his health. It is just hard to justify paying a RB big money given the recent history of teams doing that. Christian McCaffery got paid and has barley seen the field since his payday. Zeke Elliot got paid, but now may not even be the best RB on his team. The Jets made Le’Veon Bell one of the richest RBs in NFL history and he didn’t make it through 2 seasons with them. The same thing happened with the Rams and Todd Gurley. RBs take too many hits, and wear down too fast to justify investing big money in them.
And even mid tier contracts may be too much to pay a RB. Lets take a look at what the leading rushers for the last 10 Super Bowl winners were paid.
In the last 10 years, the highest paid rusher for a Super Bowl winner wasn’t even a RB, it was a gadget WR in Percy Harvin. Some of these RBs were very good, but the teams did not have to make big investments in them. They were either still on the Rookie wage scale, or were under the radar signings that paid off because the RBs had a situation around them that allowed them to excel. And since the Eagles have a elite run blocking O Line, both those situations work for them.
Just look at this year. They had the best rushing attack in the NFL. Their RBs were a second round pick in Miles Sanders. A 5th Round Pick in Kenny Gainwell. And then Boston Scott and Jordan Howard, who both made under a million. Miles Sanders was the highest paid RB at $1.7 million. They do not need one great RB to make their run game work. They need a collection of good RBs who take what the line gives them. The Eagles would be far better off drafting another 2nd or 3rd round RB to replace Miles Sanders, than committing long term to Sanders.
The Rest of the RB Room
The only other RBs they currently have under contract are Gainwell, and Jason Huntley. Gainwell will continue to be a big part of the RB room. He was extremely effective in the red zone this year, and it would be cool to see that role expanded. Huntley barley played a role, and if he is back it would continue to be as a reserve RB. Boston Scott is a restricted Free Agent, and I imagine the Eagles will match any offer since its doubtful to cost very much and he has been a reliable backup for them. Jordan Howard is a unrestricted Free Agent, and while he was effective this year, the injury concerns may keep the Eagles from bringing him back.
If they simply ran it back with the same group they had last year, they would probably still be very good. But with a surplus of picks they may very well like to add another RB in the draft to make the room even better without costing them too much. A 2nd or 3rd round pick would make under 2 million a year. There have even been suggestions that the Eagles should trade Miles Sanders if they do not plan to resign him. And I would not be completely against that as long as they replaced him with another solid RB in the draft.
They are not going to make a big splash in free agency at RB. They have cap space, but also have too many need to waste cap space on a RB when you can get equal value with more Boston Scott or Kenny Gainwell rushes at a much lower cost. A cheap signing at RB is possible if they choose to bring neither Scott or Howard back, but its still hard to see them doing even that. If they add a RB, it will be in the draft.
Using one of the three firsts on a RB is out of the question. For one, the top 2 RBs may very well available on day 2. But beyond that, it is hard to justify a first on a RB when you have so many other needs. A second or third round pick is not out of the question though. Kenneth Walker, and Breece Hall are two very intriguing names. Each would likely give the Eagles similar production to Sanders. And they would be a cheap option for 4 years. They could always add a RB late in the draft too.
The Eagles do not need a RB this offseason. But they will need one soon. It would be unwise to resign Sanders after this year. The return on investment for RBs on big contracts just is not there, They are far better off drafting a Day 2 RB every 4 years than giving any RB a big contract. So while it is not a need right now, it is a future one, and it may be smart to get ahead of it if you really like Walker or Hall. They could also trade Sanders. But its worth mentioning that they will also get something back if he leaves in free agency. So if they are going to trade him it should be for a 3rd round pick or better.
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