Chip Kelly left behind plenty of roster holes that Doug Pederson will need to patch up. The biggest dagger may have been to the running back position. Not necessarily because of the depth with the talent at the position group but with the financial burden. There is a large percentage of the 2016 salary cap devoted to the backfield.
On the positive side of things, Pederson is coming from an organization that liked to run the football.
The Chiefs were able to find success with the likes of Charcandrick West, Spencer Ware and Knile Davis when superstar Jamaal Charles was lost for the season after he tore his ACL in week 5. This is a great sign for the Eagles who went into the 2015 season with tremendous promise for how their trio of running backs would produce. Although there were moments when all three shined, it was certainly not at the level that met expectations.
The Eagles have plenty of talent in DeMarco Murray, Ryan Mathews and Darren Sproles, arguably the deepest trio in the entire league. This is also an expensive group; they all rank in the top 12 for the highest paid running backs for the 2016 season and account for 16.5 million against the cap. Whether or not Pederson does enough with his scheme and improving the offensive line is to be determined, but I will shed some light on the situation.
Sproles becomes a free agent after the 2016 season and Mathews could be released in the offseason for a small hit to the salary cap. As for Murray, he could be released after the conclusion of the 2017 season, only resulting in a 2 million cap hit. I would be fine with this course of action, and it’s actually one that I foresee Pederson taking.
I envision Pederson look to add a running back in the upcoming draft. It may seem outrageous with all of the other needs on this team, but with the action plan I discussed in this article, the Eagles could completely overhaul the running back position in the next two seasons.
Paul Perkins out of UCLA could be a name to keep an eye on if he is available for the Eagles to draft in round four. He is a three down player who has the size and ability to catch the football that Pederson looks for in a running back.
Would I support this decision? I would understand it, but taking a young kind this season would be difficult for reps in training camp and touches throughout the preseason. With a guy like Kenyon Barner still on the roster, there is more than enough diversity with the running backs for Pederson to pick from.
If I’m Pederson, 2017 would be the year to add a running in the draft. In 2015, David Johnson and Matt Jones were both third round selections, talent is available beyond the early rounds and teams are deploying a tandems at running backs, the days of a true “lead” back is quickly fading.
I’m excited to see how Pederson draws up plays to both involve all of the running backs and actually run plays that support their strengths instead of exposing their weaknesses.
Relying on the run, grinding out the clock will be the perfect complement to help whoever the starting quarterback is.
Expectations for how good the Eagles could be are completely unknown. The one area besides the defensive line that should be dominant is the trio of running backs, a group of players that any NFL team wish they had at their disposal.