The Philadelphia Eagles addressed one of their biggest roster needs by trading for Jordan Howard last month. But just because they acquired him doesn’t mean they’re done adding at that position.
At least, that’s what NFL insider Adam Schefter suggested in a recent interview on 97.5 The Fanatic with Marc Farzetta, Tra Thomas, and Bob Cooney.
Q: What did you make of the Jordan Howard trade for the Eagles?
SCHEFTER: Listen, first of all, I don’t think that the Eagles are done at the running back position. I still think that they’ll add another back or two. And I think this was part of the puzzle. I think the Eagles are excellent at playing guys when they’re supposed to play in spots they’re supposed to play. If that means that Jordan Howard’s playing on — I’m making this up — first and seconds down, or the red zone, or wherever it may be, then so be it. I think the Bears felt like he left some yards on the field, missed some cuts. But his results and production are what they are, which is very impressive, I think. And he’s been a good back. And, you know, Philly’s smart. Listen. You trade a conditional sixth-round pick that can go up for a guy that has one year left at his contract at $2 million. And if he leaves after this year, then you recoup a compensatory draft pick anyway. So they basically leased Jordan Howard for a year with the idea that they can re-sign him if they want. But you lease him for a year and all it does as it cost you a draft pick ahead of the draft where you’ll get that pick back the next year if you don’t re-sign the guy. It’s a very low-risk proposition for a team that was looking to add running backs. And I think that they did have some interest in Tevin Coleman before he went to the 49ers. And I do think that that’s what the Eagles do. They investigate things and check out things and see if certain things are possible. And so they wound up on Jordan Howard. I don’t think he’ll be the last back they add between now and training camp. And we’ll see what else they decide to do there.
Yes, the Eagles upgraded their running back position by trading for Howard. But they didn’t solve the position completely. There’s still an obvious need for a dynamic, pass-catching back. Howard doesn’t bring those skills to the offense.
It’s also possible the Eagles could try to fill their need prior to this year’s draft. Duke Johnson, who reportedly wants the Browns to trade him, is still out there. Schefter had this to say about that situation:
Q: Do you see Duke Johnson as a possibility for the Eagles?
SCHEFTER: Yeah, I mean, listen. They’ve had discussions with the Browns about him. Nothing has gotten close. Listen, they had discussions with the Bears for quite some time before they got the deal done [for Howard]. Now, why all of a sudden does it get done shortly after the NFL owners meetings? I think the Bears just decided to say, ‘you know what, we’re not going to get back anything more than a conditional sixth, let’s just go ahead and make this happen.’ I don’t know what the Eagles have offered the Browns for Duke Johnson but maybe at some point in time either the Browns come to the realization like ‘hey, this is a pretty good offer from the Eagles.’ Or the Eagles say, ‘we’ve offered a mid-round pick and we’ll go up a round.’ Or ‘we offered this player and we’ll go to that player.’ Whatever it may be that sweetens the pot. And, again, I think when you’re talking about trades like that, using a deadline, really, [it’s] the [NFL] Draft, at some point. What round was he initially picked in, was he a third? […] So, maybe they want to get back — I’m making this up — a fourth-round pick. Maybe the Eagles can manipulate the draft board enough that they manufacture an extra pick and say ‘okay, for a fourth, here’s that pick for Duke Johnson.” Or whatever it is that they can get back for the guy. Maybe that’s too rich. Maybe a four can get it done. So, I just think we haven’t heard the last of Eagles and running backs. Duke Johnson, or whatever it might be. Let’s just say that they could get Duke Johnson. Now you have Jordan Howard to run, Duke Johnson to catch, you have the backs that you bring back from last year, [Wendell] Smallwood, or [Corey] Clement, or maybe Darren Sproles will be back. So, to me, they’d be set there if they could get something for Duke Johnson done.
The Eagles’ backfield would be set if they acquired Johnson. But it appears the Eagles and Browns are at an impasse when it comes to reasonable compensation.
As Schefter suggested, it’s possible one of the two sides will budge. The Eagles might feel like trading for Johnson, a proven commodity, is better than hoping to select a rookie who may or may not (see: Donnel Pumphrey) pan out in the NFL. The Browns might feel like trading Johnson before this year’s draft might be when they’ll receive peak value for him. If a bunch of teams address their running back needs in the draft, Johnson’s market could dry up to some extent. The Browns could just try to keep Johnson but he’s making it clear he doesn’t want to be in Cleveland.
It’d be nice if the Eagles could land Johnson at a reasonable price. I don’t think a fourth-round pick is crazy considering his age (25), durability (zero games missed), production (one of only two NFL backs with 500+ receiving yards in his first three seasons), and contract status (signed at reasonable base salaries through 2021). I’m guessing the Browns might want a third-rounder, though. Unfortunately, the Eagles don’t have one of those this year thanks to the Golden Tate trade.
If not Johnson, the Eagles’ options for pass-catching running back will likely include the NFL Draft (considered to be the weakest RB class in years), Corey Clement (coming off injury), and/or Darren Sproles (turning 36 and nine games played since 2017). Those aren’t the most inspiring options.
And that’s why, as Schefter said, the Eagles aren’t done at the running back position just yet.