Updates from Friday, Mar. 14
ESPN's Adam Schefter reports that the Eagles have already signed Sproles to a contract extension:
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:
NBC's ProFootballTalk later announced the Saints received a draft pick from the Eagles:
Joel Corry of the National Football Post notes salary-cap details for the Saints after the deal:
Bleacher Report's Mike Freeman was quick to share his thoughts as well:
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:
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:
ESPN insider Adam Schefter then confirmed that Sproles would be traded and not released:
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:
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:
Patrick Daugherty of NBC Sports and Rotoworld weighed in on the situation, implying that Sproles was treated unjustly leading up to his exit:
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:
Bleacher Report's Matt Bowen echoed Ingram's sentiment, implying that Sproles can still be a productive back in the right offense:
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.
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.