Ahead of last year’s NFL Draft, Howie Roseman made a very intriguing move, swapping a conditional draft pick for the services of 24-year-old running back Jordan Howard. A little over 14 months later, could a similar trade be on the horizon?
The decision to snag Howard would prove to be a vital one. Despite the fact that the young hard-nosed runner missed half a year with a stinger injury, through the opening nine weeks of the season, Howard would carry the ball 119 times for 525 yards and his highest yards per carry since 2017. He was on track to set a new career-high in touchdowns and of course recorded a sensational hat-trick against the Packers. His dominant north-south skillset was the perfect fit for Pederson’s offense, with his decisive running and nasty mentality proving to be too much for opposing defenses, complimenting the more elusive and versatile Miles Sanders, who was developing in the shadows.
That injury derailed things however, and Miles Sanders took full advantage of the opportunity presented, refusing to look back. There’s no doubting that he’s now the star of the show, but the Eagles backfield is lacking a punch that the team have actively sought in recent years.
From LeGarrette Blount and Jay Ajayi, to Jordan Howard himself, the Eagles seem to love adding cheap and cheerful backs who run angrily between the tackles, changing the pace of the offense and keeping linebackers honest. They didn’t add a back who possesses those characteristics this offseason until the signing of UDFA Michael Warren out of Cincinnati…but it’s unfair to expect him to leap into that role right away.
Where do the Eagles go from here? The free-agent market is bleak at this point and while Boston Scott was an excellent addition to the backfield, there’s no questioning the desire for a big beefy back remains.
When the Denver Broncos signed former Chargers running back Melvin Gordon, Phillip Lindsay was understandably frustrated, according to numerous reports. The one man who really should’ve been though, was 24-year old Royce Freeman.
The Broncos had a change of heart this offseason. Pat Shurmur doesn’t work his backfield in the way the old offensive coordinator once did (we’ll get to that later) and Freeman has simply toppled out of favor. Even last year, Devontae Booker carried the ball twice for nine yards as the team’s RB3, Freeman’s current role.
The 6’0, 238 lbs, back missed two games as a rookie and none in 2019, but his snap count dipped from 33% to 32% and his production followed suit in most areas. His 521 yard rookie season where he averaged 4 yards per carry and scored 5 times was followed by a campaign where he rushed the ball on 2 more occasions but tallied 25 less total yards and 2 less touchdowns. The one area he did improve was receiving.
Freeman has never been a devout pass-catching option, much like Jordan Howard wasn’t, but his receptions spiked from 14 to 43 last year, at least showing some development.
He may not be as explosive as Jordan Howard was, but he’s kind of in a similar spot. A breakout from Phillip Lindsay pushed him to the back of the queue and now a premier running back has cut in ahead of him. Freeman should be available relatively cheaply and there is of course a wildcard here.
His offensive coordinator in 2019 was Rich Sangarello – who is now a Senior offensive assistant with the Eagles. The stint with Denver wasn’t always smooth, but if Scangarello can pick up where he left off with Freeman, and let Duce Staley look after the next chapter in his development, then who’s to say he won’t blossom?
As a short-yardage/goal-line back, the floor here is really high and the price should be contrastingly low. But it wouldn’t be the first time that Howie has made a trade in the latter stages of the offseason and I doubt it would be the last.
What would a trade look like?
The Broncos had a pretty good offseason, and A.J Bouye will hold the reins at CB1 for a while, but Bryce Callahan’s foot injury could well hamper his 2020 play, even if he is healthy. They may also need some long-term help at Safety.
The Eagles have a plethora of young, versatile defensive backs – arguably more than they know what to do with. Could we see one moved in a trade for Royce Freeman? It’s definitely plausible and at least something the Eagles should explore.
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