The Eagles currently only have four running backs on their roster: Darren Sproles, Wendell Smallwood, Donnel Pumphrey, and Corey Clement. I’m not counting Ryan Mathews since he’s expected to be cut at some point and Byron Marshall reportedly switched positions to wide receiver.
Some might believe the Eagles are OK with their current group, but I highly doubt it. Philadelphia was rumored to be enamored with Christian McCaffrey before he was selected at No. 8. The Eagles also reportedly tried to trade up for Dalvin Cook. Those players represent real lead back options that the Eagles still currently lack.
The Eagles might not be able to find their ideal long-term workhorse this offseason, but there are still some options out there for the Birds. Here’s a look at those options and the likelihood of them.
The Eagles and Saints are rumored to be discussing a Jason Kelce for Mark Ingram trade. This deal would make a lot of sense for both sides considering the Saints really need a center and the Eagles really need a running back. Ingram is coming off a season where he rushed for 1,043 yards at an impressive 5.1 average. Getting Ingram should make people feel a lot better about the Eagles’ backfield. He’s 27 years old and has two years left on his deal, so he wouldn’t just be a one-year fix for the Birds.
This deal might not materialize, however, now that there’s talk of injured Saints center Max Unger returning earlier than expected. Maybe the Eagles can try to offer Mychal Kendricks or something else to pry away Ingram from New Orleans.
Likelihood: There have been (rumored) trade talks, so I’d think there’s a chance.
It feels like there’s been talk of Hyde potentially being on the outs in San Francisco for some time now. Doing nothing to quell this speculation is the fact the 49ers made a lot of moves at running back this offseason. New general manager John Lynch traded up in the draft to get Joe Williams, signed Tim Hightower in free agency, acquired veteran Kapri Bibbs in a trade with the Broncos, and even spent big money on free agent fullback Kyle Juszczyk.
If Hyde is the odd man out in San Francisco, the Eagles should look to capitalize. The former second round pick is only 25 years old. He has good size at 6-0, 235 pounds and he’s shown statistical promise. In 2016, he finished with 217 rushing attempts for 998 yards (4.6 average) and six touchdowns. He also had 33 receptions for 163 yards and three scores. Hyde fumbled five times last season so that’s not great. But he only fumbled twice in his first two years.
The 49ers reportedly showed interest in Mychal Kendricks earlier this offseason. San Francisco drafted Reuben Foster, so maybe they’re out on Kendricks now, but Foster might not be able to play in 2017 due to injury. Another thing worth noting is San Francisco lacks a fourth round selection in 2018 and the Eagles have three of those. Maybe there’s something that can get done here.
Likelihood: I’d say there’s a reasonable chance since it makes sense.
Hill is entering the final year of his rookie contract. Meanwhile, the Bengals drafted Joe Mixon in the second round. Cincinnati also still employs Giovani Bernand and five other running backs on their roster. If Hill isn’t in the long-term plans, the Bengals could look to ship him out now while they can get value for him.
Getting the 24-year-old Hill would figure to be a buy-low move for the Eagles. After rushing for 1,124 yards and nine touchdowns as a rookie in 2014, he only averaged 3.6 yards per carry in 2015 and 3.8 in 2016. Hill doesn’t offer much as a pass catcher, but he’s been a touchdown machine. He has 29 rushing scores (plus one receiving) over three seasons.
Likelihood: Could be a decent option if the Eagles can buy low on him.
One of the better free agents still on the market, the 30-year-old Blount ran for 1,161 yards and a whopping 18 touchdowns last season. He only averaged 3.9 yards per carry, though, and he offers nothing as a receiver. Blount would give the Eagles a nice physical presence in the backfield but I don’t figure him to be a realistic target.
Williams, who turned 34 last month, has obviously had a very productive career. Does he still have any gas left in the tank? He only rushed for 343 yards and four scores on 98 carries last season. He’s not too far removed from a 2015 campaign where he had 907 rushing yards and 11 rushing touchdowns along with 40 receptions for 367 receiving yards. Williams might be a decent stop-gap option if the Eagles get desperate, but again, I’m not counting on it.
Likelihood: Probably not very.
This would make my mom very happy since she’s been enjoying Jennings on this season of Dancing with the Stars. But it wouldn’t make Eagles fans very happy because the 32-year-old Jennings hasn’t been very good. He averaged a mere 3.3 yards per carry in 2016. At 6-1, 234 pounds, he’s a big body that could eat up some snaps, but meh.
Williams had a real promising rookie season with Buffalo in 2015. He ran for 517 yards and nine touchdowns on a mere 93 carries (5.6 average). But then Williams showed up to Bills camp overweight and also got hit with a four-game suspension for violating the NFL’s substance abuse policy. Williams then received a 10-game suspension for his second violation after joining the Steelers. He’s had some non-football issues which has made him unreliable for NFL teams to keep him around. Williams is only 24 so maybe he’ll get things turned around one day, but I’m not expecting the Eagles to give him that chance right now.
Likelihood: Virtually zero.
There’s a lot of other guys who can be mentioned in this space. A lot of these players are a dime a dozen. Chris Johnson, James Starks, Ronnie Hillman, Matt Asiata, Jonathan Grimes, Christine Michael, CHRIS POLK, T.J. Yeldon (trade), Matt Jones (trade).
What should the Eagles do?
If you ask me, I’d say the Eagles should really try to get Ingram. Hyde should be the next target after that. If that doesn’t work out, check in on Hill’s price. If all else fails, sign some boring veteran JAG (just a guy) in free agency (bleh) like Williams or Jennings, I guess, but hopefully it doesn’t come to that.