A report circulated earlier this week citing that the Chicago Bears were pursuing a trade for Carson Wentz. For Philadelphia, the compensation included Tarik Cohen, Nick Foles, and draft capital. That’s almost enticing, but if it’s a running back they want, then David Montgomery should absolutely be the target.
The Eagles rushing attack was sporadic at best last year. From pass-protection to pass receptions, everything was sloppy. Miles Sanders was confusingly kept on the sidelines despite clear evidence that running the ball was working and had it not been for a trio of 70-yard+ home-run hits, then his 867 rushing yards would’ve locked a little more worrying heading into year 3.
What also became clear was that there was no serviceable depth behind Sanders whatsoever. Boston Scott shined against the New York Giants (as per) but seemed lackluster outside of those performances. Corey Clement had clearly lost a step and struggled in pass-protection, and even punts on Jordan Howard and Jason Huntley weren’t enough to give the coaching staff confidence running the ball with Sanders out of the game.
The good news is that a poor rushing attack should no longer be a concern. The offensive line will be rejuvenated and there’s a new Sherif in town. Nick Sirianni has not only coached a 1,169-yard rusher in Jonathan Taylor, but a 1,039-yard season from Marlon Mack in 2019 and a 908-yard season from him in 2018. Versatility from backs like Nyeem Hines has been cherished and we can expect a much heavier focus on the ground assets as a result.
The initial trade reported involving Tarik Cohen rubbed me the wrong way for a few reasons. First and foremost is the Elephant in the room – Howie Roseman refuses to pay running backs.
Following the model of most Super Bowl-winning teams of the past decade, Roseman was so reluctant to spend anything more than a veteran’s minimum last year meant that he missed out on Carlos Hyde, De’Vonta Freeman, and literally every other free agent.
The Eagles don’t like paying running backs
Tarik Cohen has two years left on his current contract, with his 2021 cap hit being $5.7M and his 2022 cap hit being $7.5M. For context, the Eagles haven’t paid a running back more than $3.5M since 2016.
Ryan Mathews averaged $3.6M per year on his deal before the early exit.
LeGarrette Blount’s contract was worth $2.8M.
Jay Ajayi? He made $325K in 2017 and $1M in 2018.
Jordan Howard’s 2020 deal was worth $72,000 after the team took on his final contracted year in his rookie deal in 2019 worth $2M.
The rest of the running backs have been rookie contracts.
As electric as Tarik Cohen is, the Eagles already have Boston Scott listed as a restricted free agent who plays exactly the same style but at a fraction of the price.
Since entering the league in 2017, Cohen has amassed 1,101 rushing yards and 1,575 receiving yards. That’s impressive and a much higher output than what Scott provides, but there is another issue.
Cohen isn’t a three-down back and is also coming off of a torn ACL. We all know how debilitating these injuries can be to running backs. Corey Clement, Jay Ajayi, and Jordan Howard all suffered serious knee injuries during their stints in Philadelphia and none were the same upon return.
Given the significance of this trade, targeting Cohen makes little sense from a value perspective. Instead, there’s another Chicago Bears back who the Eagles should be pushing for.
Enter David Montgomery
Let’s turn back time. Back in 2019, the Bears traded Jordan Howard to the Eagles in order to avoid a big payday. The plan was simple. They drafted Jordan Howard 2.0 in David Montgomery, extending the cycle of north-south bruisers available at a discount. Howard shone during the opening had of 2019 for the Eagles before a heartbreaking injury facilitated a late breakout from Miles Sanders. In a full circle of life move, poaching from the RB factory again makes sense here.
After putting up 889 yards in 2019, Montgomery actually finished fifth in the NFL with 1,070 yards last year along with 8 touchdowns, which is stunning considering it was behind a rotating offensive line.
Montgomery reminds me a little more of a less explosive David Johnson. He can push the pile in short-yardage situations and has size on his side at 5’10, 222 lbs. A goal-line wrecking ball, Montgomery is a true power back with controlled footwork and surprisingly good vision.
He’s shown tremendous growth as a pass-catcher, notching 438 yards last year and 2 receiving touchdowns.
Montgomery is everything the Eagles want in a back to take the weight of the world off of the shoulders of Miles Sanders in a season that will undoubtedly have plenty of teething problems for a new Head Coach. If Sirianni could find a way to balance Jonathan Taylor and Nyeem Hines, then watching him utilize Sanders and Montgomery would be a joy to behold.
The best bit? Montgomery carries a $1.1M cap hit in 2021 and a $1.2M cap hit in 2022. He’s still only 23 and while keeping him around long-term would be unlikely given that both he and Sanders would require a payday, it’s at least a short-term rental until the cycle resets once again with the upside of retaining a young, injury-free running back would be the perfect complement to Miles Sanders in a new-look offense.
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