Updates from Friday, Mar. 14
ESPN's Adam Schefter reports that the Eagles have already signed Sproles to a contract extension:
Eagles already signed RB Darren Sproles to a two-year contract extension, tying him to Philadelphia for three seasons, per league source.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) March 14, 2014
The New Orleans Saints have reportedly traded running back Darren Sproles to the Philadelphia Eagles.
Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports reported the news Thursday:
Eagles have acquired Sproles from the Saints— Jason La Canfora (@JasonLaCanfora) March 13, 2014
Several GMs I spoke to over past week believed Saints could get a 5th round pick for Sproles. Would imagine trade compensation in that range— Jason La Canfora (@JasonLaCanfora) March 13, 2014
NBC's ProFootballTalk later announced the Saints received a draft pick from the Eagles:
Per league source, Saints get fifth-round pick for Darren Sproles from Eagles.— ProFootballTalk (@ProFootballTalk) March 13, 2014
Joel Corry of the National Football Post notes salary-cap details for the Saints after the deal:
The Saints create $3.5M of cap room by trading Darren Sproles. There's $750,000 in dead money with him.— Joel Corry (@corryjoel) March 13, 2014
Bleacher Report's Mike Freeman was quick to share his thoughts as well:
Saints trading Sproles to Philly is one of the dumbest moves I've ever seen. Eagles will be stiff competition in conference. Stupid.— mike freeman (@mikefreemanNFL) March 13, 2014
La Canfora stated Sunday that Sproles had been notified that he'd either be released or traded, and Sproles himself acknowledged his departure from New Orleans was a foregone conclusion:
Saints have not yet officially released Darren Sproles, though his reps were notified of impending trade/release last week ...— Jason La Canfora (@JasonLaCanfora) March 9, 2014
Thank you New Orleans for your support over the past 3 years! I will always be forever grateful. #WhoDat— Darren Sproles (@DarrenSproles) March 8, 2014
Ian Rapoport of NFL Network reported near the dawn of free agency Tuesday that the Saints were trying to cut Sproles but would still try to trade him, and that as many as 10 teams would be interested in him:
#Saints set to cut Darren Sproles today, but they are still holding out hope on trading him. Hear more than 10 teams interested if he’s free— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) March 11, 2014
ESPN insider Adam Schefter then confirmed that Sproles would be traded and not released:
Saints still haven’t released RB Darren Sproles and now plan to trade him due to heavy interest, per ESPN source. Not being released, though— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) March 11, 2014
So the players being shopped have been released yet the player being released, Darren Sproles, now is being shopped. And will be traded.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) March 11, 2014
Sproles would have been a $3.5 million cap hit for New Orleans in 2014 in the last season of his four-year, $14 million contract, according to Spotrac.com.
He was shocked to hear about the news:
WOW! "@ESPNNFL: THIS JUST IN: Saints now plan to trade RB Darren Sproles due to heavy interest. He will not be released.— Darren Sproles (@DarrenSproles) March 11, 2014
The stuff u find out on twitter— Darren Sproles (@DarrenSproles) March 11, 2014
Thanks to Sproles' nearly unparalleled prowess as a receiver out of the backfield and his returning ability, he has proven himself to be an invaluable commodity, even though he only carried the ball 53 times in 2013.
The Saints are retooling their roster and have removed several marquee players from the equation to clear cap space for superstar tight end Jimmy Graham and his prospective long-term, lucrative contract.
But Graham wasn't happy to see Sproles whisked away, tweeting:
Wow unbelievable. Shocked and disappointed on everything that's gone on this offseason.— Jimmy Graham (@TheJimmyGraham) March 8, 2014
Patrick Daugherty of NBC Sports and Rotoworld weighed in on the situation, implying that Sproles was treated unjustly leading up to his exit:
Player treatment is such a joke in the NFL. Unreal what the Saints are doing to Darren Sproles.— Patrick Daugherty (@RotoPat) March 11, 2014
In an ideal situation and with more cap space, perhaps New Orleans would have made keeping Sproles more of a priority. Such is not the case, and the Eagles are more than happy to welcome him into the fold.
There is merit and logic to the Saints' decision regarding Sproles. Despite how durable the 5'6", 190-pound scatback has been in his career, he is turning 31 in June, and the wear and tear may catch up to him in 2014.
On the other hand, Sproles is so elusive in the open field, and his low center of gravity makes him difficult to tackle and hard for defenders to see beyond massive offensive linemen.
Larry Holder of NOLA.com and The Times-Picayune spoke with Sproles' former teammate and fellow running back Mark Ingram, who was surprised to learn that Sproles would be leaving but thought he'd succeed moving forward:
Just caught up with Mark Ingram. He saw Darren Sproles yesterday, said Sproles is doing fine, feeling good, ready for new chapter in career— Larry Holder (@LarryHolder) March 9, 2014
Mark Ingram on Darren Sproles: "He'll be a great player for somebody else." Ingram called Sproles pending departure a shocker.— Larry Holder (@LarryHolder) March 9, 2014
Bleacher Report's Matt Bowen echoed Ingram's sentiment, implying that Sproles can still be a productive back in the right offense:
If the money is right, Darren Sproles can still impact defensive game plans & produce on special teams. Value there in the right system.— Matt Bowen (@MattBowen41) March 8, 2014
Perhaps the most telling statistics on Sproles' resume are that he's never carried the ball more than 100 times in a single season. Over the past three years with the Saints, he's registered reception totals of 86, 75 and 71, respectively.
Considering that Sproles has game-changing ability, it will be interesting to see how New Orleans adjusts without him. Super Bowl MVP quarterback Drew Brees has had the luxury of dumping it to Sproles or matching him up with linebackers split out wide.
How many good seasons does Darren Sproles have left?
That's something the Eagles can certainly take advantage of. With how powerful of a punch Sproles can pack between the tackles, he could be used more in that role. It would keep defenses off-balance if Sproles can be more of a running threat, and since the Saints had such a deep stable of backs in their platoon, the ball-carrying workload may change for him by default with his new team.
Sproles can provide a spark in the passing game and aid Philadelphia quarterback Nick Foles' confidence with easy completions. Combine that with punt and kick returns, and there's little reason Sproles shouldn't be productive at least this coming season and even the next.