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What the LeGarrette Blount signing means for the Eagles

Deep dive on Philadelphia’s new running back.

NFL: Los Angeles Rams at New England Patriots Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports

The Philadelphia Eagles addressed their most glaring weakness on Wednesday by signing free agent running back LeGarrette Blount to a one-year deal.

We’ve already written quite a bit about the Blount signing. Here’s a look at the immediate reaction to the trade. Here are the positives and negatives of the trade along with an approval poll you can vote in. Most importantly, here’s video of Blount running people over. But now it’s time for a more in-depth look at the signing from every angle. Here’s what the Blount signing means for the Eagles.

Blount by the numbers

Career: 1168 carries, 5122 yards, 4.4 average, 49 TD, 16 fumbles, 46 receptions, 337 receiving yards 7.3 average, 1 receiving TD

2016: 299 carries, 1161 yards, 3.9 average, 18 TD, 2 fumbles, 7 receptions, 38 receiving yards

Pro Football Focus: 38th out of 62 running backs

Football Outsiders: 14th out of 42 running backs

We can stop worrying about the Eagles’ running back situation (for now)

The Blount signing is a relief. He’s not a savior at the position by any means, but he’s a nice temporary fix for the Eagles.

Philadelphia desperately needed help at running back. Going into the season with Darren Sproles, Donnel Pumphrey, Wendell Smallwood, and Corey Clement would not have been ideal. There’s no full-time players in that group, except maybe Smallwood one day, and even then, that’s no sure thing.

Blount give the Eagles a legitimate running back who can handle carries on first and second down. He might not be a weekly workhorse but he should be able to handle a significant amount of carries. That approach will allow the Eagles’ other running backs to succeed in their roles instead of being burdened with a lead role not suited for them.

I can’t act like there isn’t downside with Blount. He’s coming off a season where he only averaged 3.9 yards per carry. He turns 31 and he’s not exactly a dynamic weapon. Still, I’m optimistic that Blount can at least effectively fill a role for the Eagles.

The Eagles continue to give Carson Wentz weapons

The Eagles sure have prioritized building around Wentz this offseason. They added the following offensive weapons: Alshon Jeffery, Torrey Smith, Mack Hollins, Shelton Gibson, Donnel Pumphrey, and now Blount.

Blount isn’t a pass catcher, unlike those other players, but his running ability should take pressure off Philadelphia’s young quarterback. Now the Eagles shouldn’t need to throw the ball all the time.

Nice to see the Eagles surrounding Wentz with weapons to work with.

The Eagles have bought time

Getting a long-term lead running back in the 2017 NFL Draft would have been ideal. Howie Roseman called it an historic draft class, after all. The Eagles reportedly wanted Christian McCaffrey and Dalvin Cook, but they ended up with neither.

Philadelphia drafted Pumphrey but he doesn’t project as a workhorse in the NFL due to his size. Maybe he can prove people wrong in that regard, but he likely won’t do it as a rookie since he still needs to add weight. (The Eagles want him up from 176 to 180-185).

And so the Eagles needed a stop-gap to get them through the 2017 season. That’s exactly what Blount is. He’ll help the team through this year and then the Eagles will have the opportunity to select a long-term rusher in the 2018 NFL Draft. Next year’s class is supposed to feature a lot of quality running back talent yet again. The blount signing buys time until then.

Blount’s addition is bad news for some current Eagles running backs

Signing Blount helps the Eagles, but it does not help some of the players currently on the roster.

Ryan Mathews — Signing Blount confirms what we’ve all suspected: Mathews is a goner once he’s healthy enough to be released.

Wendell Smallwood — Reasonably had a shot to prove himself as the Eagles’ lead running back this summer. Still could earn playing time if he steps up this offseason, but his path to the lead role isn’t so easy now.

Corey Clement — The undrafted rookie free agent had a realistic chance to make the Eagles’ roster before the Blount signing. Now he’ll probably be a practice squad body at best.

The Eagles have no cap space

Over The Cap currently lists Philadelphia with the lowest amount of cap space in the NFL at $1,223,394. The Blount signing hasn’t been factored in to that number yet.

Blount reportedly received a one-year contract worth $2.8 million. The base value is $1.25 million and there are incentives worth up to $1.55 million.

NFL teams can’t be over the cap, so the Eagles must have had a little more space than OTC accounted for. That or the Birds found a way to shift some money around to sign Blount.

Philadelphia can still clear up more cap space this offseason by cutting Ryan Mathews ($4 million) and trading the likes of Jason Kelce ($3.8 million), Mychal Kendricks ($1.8 million), Jordan Matthews ($1 million), and/or Allen Barbre ($2.1 million).

Blount is a great weapon for Doug Pederson

Pederson loves going for it on fourth down. Signing Blount should do nothing to temper his penchant for being aggressive. The 6-0, 250 pound Blount makes good use of his size and physicality.

Pairing the NFL’s best short-yardage runner with Pederson seems like a good mix. Blount could be critical when it comes to extending drives and punching (no pun intended) the ball into the end zone. Again, 18 touchdowns last year ... that’s pretty good.

The Patriots helped the Eagles get Blount

By placing the seldom-used “veteran free agent tender” on Blount, the Patriots actually helped the Eagles land him. The Giants and Cardinals were reportedly interested in Blount, but signing him would have meant he counted against their compensatory pick formula. The Eagles weren’t getting a compensatory pick anyway, so signing Blount didn’t cost them in that regard.

In return, the Eagles signing Blount helps the Patriots get a compensatory pick. The pick doesn’t come from the Eagles, though, so Philadelphia shouldn’t really care about that too much.

The Eagles aren’t only trying to “win now”

The Blount signing inspired a few Eagles writers to write columns about how the Eagles are trying to “win now.” On the surface, yes, the Eagles want to be competitive in 2017. There’s no denying that. But to suggest there isn’t a long-term vision behind the Eagles’ short-term signings would be misguided.

Please refer back to this piece I wrote earlier this offseason. The TL;DR version is that the Eagles are intentionally signing players to one-year deals in order to cash in on compensatory picks in the future. There’s ample evidence to suggest this is the case since Joe Douglas comes from a Ravens organization that has been awarded the most compensatory picks since they were created.

I’m not saying the Eagles are signing Blount with only compensatory picks in mind. They obviously care about his impact on the 2017 season. But I dispute that the Eagles aren’t thinking beyond this year.

Eagles fans are happy

Here’s how BGN readers graded the Blount signing.

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