Now that the initial reaction of the Philadelphia Eagles trade for running back Kenjon Barner has cooled down, let's take a look at what this means for the team moving forward.
Eagles running back depth chart
Here's what the Eagles running back depth chart looked like before Barner arrived.
1) LeSean McCoy
2) Darren Sproles
3) Chris Polk
4) Matthew Tucker
5) Henry Josey
6) David Fluellen
McCoy, who is dealing with a slight toe turf issue but is still practicing, and Sproles are stone cold locks. Polk may have the inside edge on the third spot but he's been injured throughout most of training camp with a slight hamstring tear. At one point Eagles coach Chip Kelly said Matthew Tucker was "entrenched" in the fourth running back spot but that was a couple weeks ago. The undrafted rookie free agents, Josey and Fluellen, are fighting an uphill battle for the 4th running back spot on the 53 man roster and/or a practice squad offer. Josey had an impressive performance against the Patriots.
Where does Barner fit in?
Looking at that depth chart, I'm not really sure where I'd put Barner. I can't put Barner above Polk despite his hamstring injury. I'm not sure if I could put him above Matthew Tucker at 4. I think he could be ahead of the undrafted free agents at the 5th spot. If that's the case, however, Barner wouldn't make the active roster. The Eagles will definitely keep at least three running backs and keeping four is possible because the Eagles did that for about half the season in 2013 with McCoy, Bryce Brown, Polk, and Tucker.
Considering the fact that the Eagles only traded a conditional 7th for Barner, it's really not even a lock he makes the team. Then again, I thought the same thing last season when Philadelphia traded away Nate Menkin to acquire Jeff Maehl. Obviously the Eagles were interested enough to give up something to get him.
The Eagles still have two preseason games and a slew of training camp practices left so there should be enough time to evaluate Barner's progress before the team is required to make final cuts by August 30th. Kelly's familiarity with Barner is an added bonus in this regard.
Josh Huff factor
Rookie wide receiver Josh Huff revealed after practice on Tuesday that he suffered an AC sprain against the Patriots. Huff's shoulder injury isn't expected to be serious enough to end his season but some have already suggested that the Eagles might put him on injured reserve and stash him away for the 2014 season.
While that's something to consider, I'm not so sure the Eagles are in a rush to rule out Huff. The team obviously liked him enough to draft him in the third round and I imagine they figured he'd be a key special teams contributor, especially as a kick returner. It's possible the Eagles could use their one-time "Injured reserve-designated to return" application on Huff but they might want to save that designation for later on a more crucial player. Barner doesn't play the same position as Huff but the Eagles may view him as Huff's replacement on special teams.
It should be noted that Barner still has practice squad eligibility. Philadelphia could stash him away on there.
Predicting how it all plays out
Things are really up in the air in this situation so it's hard to say for sure, but my prediction is that Polk gets healthy enough to play and he solidifies his position at the third spot. I've seen him running on the sidelines during practices and I'm guessing that if he really felt his job was in danger, he'd be pushing harder to practice. Beyond Polk, the competition for the fourth spot is open and I could see Barner getting the edge there. Let's say Matthew Tucker ends up on the practice squad again. Maybe Henry Josey, too.
Best: Barner makes the roster and the Eagles paid a small price for an intriguing backup who can contribute on special teams.
Worst: Barner gets cut and the Eagles didn't pay anything to take a flyer on him.