The 2017 NFL Draft has come and gone. The Philadelphia Eagles invested a plethora of high draft picks on the defensive side of the ball and added more dynamic receivers to a corps that severally lacked that skill in 2016.
One area on the offensive side of the ball that has left fans up in arms the past couple of days is the running back position. The Eagles addressed the position in the fourth-round with San Diego State’s Donnel Pumphrey, but his size has some fans concerned. I for one love what Pumphrey brings to the table, but I do believe the Eagles need to add a reliable running back with size to get the tough yards in meaningful short yardage carries. They don’t have one of those on the roster.
Ryan Mathews in his NFL career has been everything, but reliable. When he’s on the field, he’s proven to be an asset to an offense, but he’s rarely able to be on the field and reliability is a player’s best ability. His impending release appears to be a matter of when, not if.
Once neck heals…won't be long after that he's released. https://t.co/aHfvWHBfoc
— Adam Caplan (@caplannfl) April 29, 2017
Mathews release will save the Eagles $4 million in salary cap savings. With that extra cash the team could look to add another running back.
Many fans are clamoring for ex-Kansas City Chiefs running back Jamaal Charles, due in large part for his familiarity with Doug Pederson, but he hasn’t responded well at all to his second torn ACL that he suffered in 2015. In addition to that fact, he’s also 31-years-old in December.
There’s many potential candidates the Eagles can bring in at running back. They’ve already added ex-Wisconsin Badger Corey Clement during the undrafted free agency period. He can fit the role I described above getting the important short yards, but he’s far from a lock to make the roster and has to earn his keep during the preseason. So why not trade for an expendable, young and affordable running back?
Here’s a list of running backs I believe could impact the Eagles offense positively and could end up providing themselves a future with the team:
1. Charcandrick West, Kansas City Chiefs
If familiarity with Pederson is the reason you’d like the team to scoop up Charles, then you should have no problem with the addition of West. West oddly fell out of favor with the Chiefs since Pederson’s departure, which could be either a coincidence or has a legitimate reason.
It’s well known Pederson had control of play calls for the Chiefs after the first-half of games in 2015. Maybe his preference on who ran the ball for those plays was West over the likes of Spencer Ware? West ran for 634 yards on 160 attempts for four touchdowns in nine starts during the 2015 season. Then Pederson leaves and the Chiefs turn to Ware as the primary ball carrier limiting West to 88 carries for 293 yards and one touchdown in 2016.
Obviously, I’m just speculating this theory of why West fell out of favor, but nevertheless he should be obtainable for a reasonable price. The Chiefs recently added Kareem Hunt during the third-round of the 2017 Draft. The addition of Hunt and usage of Ware could push West out the door in Kansas City and that’s something the Eagles should be all over.
West is signed through 2018 and carries a cap hit of $1.1 million in 2017 and $2 million in 2018. If West doesn’t pan out for the Eagles in 2017, they can release him the following offseason and save $1.75 million in cap savings. This should be a no-brainer and my number one option for the team to add at running back.
2. Tevin Coleman, Atlanta Falcons
Okay, I know what you’re thinking – no freaking way this happens. Prior to day three of the draft I would’ve said the exact same thing if someone presented this theory to me. After it? Not so much now.
Coleman was the Falcons third-round pick out of Indiana in 2015. Prior to Devonta Freeman’s breakout season in 2015, many thought Coleman could be the team’s bell-cow running back. The addition of Kyle Shanahan and his zone scheme helped Freeman flourish and become the stud running back he is today and when Shanahan flew the coop to take the 49ers head coaching gig, the Falcons brought in an offensive coordinator that will replicate his scheme. This could help make Coleman expendable.
The Falcons also have to extend Freeman soon as he’s set to hit free agency this upcoming offseason. They’ll have to commit a pretty good amount of money to Freeman given his production, which could cement Coleman’s long-term status with the team. Further indication that the Falcons are thinking post-Coleman already is the fact that the team drafted a running back in the fifth-round in Brian Hill who’s skill set is nearly identical to Coleman’s. Hill will have four years of contract control when he’s given his rookie contract, while Coleman will only have two and more expensive years at that as rookie contracts get more costly at the end of the deals courtesy of the collective bargaining agreement. Coleman has a cap hit of $866k in 2017 and $977k in 2018.
Coleman is the Falcons grinder at running back. He gets the tough yards in meaningful situations and pounds it into the end zone on the goal line (118 carries for 520 yards and eight touchdowns). He’s also a very underrated pass catcher out of the backfield (31 receptions for 421 yards and three touchdowns). This role is replaceable and the Falcons acknowledged that during the draft.
The Eagles currently have three fourth-round selections in the 2018 NFL Draft. One of those fourth’s can become a third if Eric Rowe plays 50% of the Patriots defensive snaps in 2017. Why not call Atlanta and just inquire on Coleman. Hey, it’ll give them more breathing room to give Freeman an extension, right?
3. Terrance West, Baltimore Ravens
The Ravens have a plethora of running backs and the addition of Danny Woodhead this offseason only made the room more packed. One of these guys has got to go.
West emerged as the Ravens go to running back last season, but he’s still their stop-gap as the team wanted to give Kenneth Dixon time to adjust from injury. He’s most likely their main running back moving forward, but he will miss the first four games of the 2017 season due to a suspension, so that gives the Ravens incentives hang onto West at least, but I’m sure Ozzie can be persuaded with draft compensation or a linebacker like Mychal Kendricks perhaps? The Ravens still has a question mark about who will line up next to CJ Mosley at inside linebacker.
West is 26-years-old and won’t turn 27 until January. He’s had an up and down career since he was drafted by the Cleveland Browns in the third-round of the 2014 NFL Draft. He’s coming off his best season as a pro starting 13 games, rushing the ball 193 times for 774 yards and five touchdowns. He’s on the last year of his deal and has a cap hit charge of $1.8 million, so he’s basically a cheap stop-gap option, but can contribute to the Eagles’ RBBC.
4. Matt Jones, Washington Redskins
This option isn’t going to excite fans. Hell, maybe none of these guys on this list does. Youth at running back is important whether you wish to believe it or not and Pederson has committed to his RBBC approach. Jones could be an asset to this committee.
Washington seems desperate to unload Jones, which is why I might not be completely shocked to see them willing to deal him to a divison rival. He does have a fumbling issue and for that reason I can understand fans wanting no parts of him. But he is 24-years-old, cheap and fits the build the Eagles are looking for in size (6’2, 232 lbs.) at running back.
The Redskins drafted Oklahoma’s all-time leading rusher in Samaje Perine. Their undrafted free agent Robert Kelley also took the starting running back gig from Jones during the 2016 season. He’s fallen out of favor with that coaching staff, so maybe a new scheme or change of scenery get him back on track of what he showed at Florida that made him a third-round pick in 2015.
Jones ran the ball 99 times last season for 460 yards and three touchdowns. Again, his fumbling is an issue (8 fumbles in two seasons), but he’d be a project for Eagles running back coach Duce Staley and a good test to see how the coach can mold young talent at the position. The Redskins could end up waiving Jones and the Eagles could just snag him off-waivers and avoid giving up any type of compensation for him, but if they like him enough and Redskins are willing to hold onto him in hopes of getting something in return, why not offer a conditional seventh-round pick? Jones has a cap hit of $788k in 2017 and $878l in 2018.
5. Jeremy Hill, Cincinnati Bengals
This seems to be a popular name among the Eagles fanbase to acquire and for the life of me I can’t figure out why. Maybe it’s because I’m a bitter fantasy football player who got burnt by Hill after his awesome rookie season in return with a complete bust of a first-round pick in fantasy the following year.
Hill seems to have fallen out of favor with the Bengals and rightfully so. The team did their homework on all the top running backs in the draft and were so desperate to upgrade the position they took the risk on Oklahoma’s Joe Mixon in the second-round.
Hill has been awful in terms of yardage running the ball the last two seasons. He’s averaged 3.7 yards per carry and that’s resulted to a little over 52 yards per game the last two years. But like I’ve pointed out, there won’t be a running back this season who will be the primary ball carrier if Pederson stays true to his word, and Hill fits the bill for young running back, who also is cheap.
Hill showed so much promise in his rookie season after being the Bengals second-round pick in 2014. He only started eight games and ran the ball 222 times for 1,124 yards and nine touchdowns. He’s been able to keep up his scoring opportunities (20 touchdowns the last two seasons), basically because he’s a glorified goal-line back.
What Hill was able to show in his rookie season, at least in my opinion, is what fans are holding on to in hopes maybe with a change of scenery and system he can return to that form. It’s definitely possible and I can’t rule that out either – but he’s still my last resort.
Hill is entering the last year of his rookie deal and has a cap hit of $1.2 million. The best part about that is if he sucks, oh well move on and you barely lost any money trying. The Bengals have absolutely no leverage in terms of trade for Hill. He’s clearly gone after the season and they’re in a position to just ride it out with him and lose him for nothing, or take what you can get.
The Bengals starting center Russell Bodine is pretty bad. The team could use an upgrade at center and the Eagles could entertain a Jason Kelce for Hill swap. I mean the Eagles do have newly re-signed Stefen Wisniewski, 2016 third-round pick Isaac Seumalo (started majority of his collegiate career at center with 23 starts), or incoming undrafted free agent Tyler Orlosky, who was the top ranked undrafted free agent.
These names are just a few options top help improve the Eagles running back by committee approach and give the team an added element in a running back that they’re missing currently. I know everyone’s main focus is a three-down back, but that’s clearly not where the team’s head is at right now. Those are my picks for trade targets that won’t cost much to get, or much against the cap, which the Eagles have a lack there of.
Mandatory Photo Credits: Chiefs.com