The Eagles made a move to help the offensive side of the ball Thursday morning, acquiring Darren Sproles from the Saints.
The Eagles gave up the fifth-round pick they acquired from the Patriots in the Isaac Sopoaga trade last season.
"Darren Sproles is an unbelievable offensive weapon," said Chip Kelly in a statement released by the team. "He can do it all, run, catch, plus he’s a proven winner. And on top of that, he can bring all of those dynamic skills to the return game as well. There is no question we were all excited once we found out we were going to be able to trade for him."
Added Howie Roseman: "Darren is a player that we have admired for many years – he’s a proven performer at a high level. He’s such a dangerous back and he’s a great piece to add to our offense and to our special teams. We spent a considerable time in order to try to make this happen and we were very happy to get a deal done with New Orleans."
Sproles (5-6, 190) turns 31 in June, but is exactly the type of versatile piece Kelly likes to have at his disposal. While he's listed as a running back, Sproles is best utilized in mismatches in the passing game. According to Pro Football Focus, he was on the field for 427 snaps last year; 348 of those (81 percent) were passing plays. He averaged 77.3 receptions per year in three seasons with the Saints and caught 71 balls for 604 yards last season.
Sproles was not great as a return man last season, although he's had success in that area previously. He averaged 21.3 yards per kickoff return (12 attempts). That would have ranked 23rd among qualified returners. And he averaged just 6.7 yards per punt return (20th). Don't forget though, he had a big 39-yard kickoff return in the Saints' playoff win over the Eagles.
As a running back, Sproles totaled 220 yards last season and averaged 4.2 yards per carry. He's averaged 5.1 yards per carry in his nine-year career.
So, what does this mean for the other Eagles on the roster? LeSean McCoy played the second-most snaps of any running back in the league last year. He was fantastic as a receiver, catching 52 balls and averaging 10.4 yards per reception. Given how productive McCoy was in this offense in 2013, it's unlikely he sees a significant decrease next season.
The Eagles bid farewell to Jason Avant earlier this offseason. Look for Sproles to rotate in at multiple spots. Per PFF, he lined up in the backfield 60.9 percent of the time last season. On the other occasions, he was out wide or in the slot. Remember how Kelly used Jackson in the backfield last season to create mismatches? He can do the same with Sproles.
At this point in his career, Sproles' numbers suggest he's not dynamic as a ball-carrier. He could get some touches, but McCoy will still carry the load. The team will have to decide if it wants to keep both Bryce Brown and Chris Polk on the roster. Later in 2013, Polk seemed to be the more productive ball-carrier.
Kelly likes having interchangeable parts and multiple options. Now he's got another toy at his disposal in Sproles.
According to OverTheCap.com, Sproles is signed through 2014 and has a base salary of $3.4 million.