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Eagles, Sproles agree to contract extension

By By The Sports Xchange
Published On: Mar 14 2014 03:00:05 PM CDT
Darren Sproles, New Orleans Saints, January 2012

Sean Gardner/Reuters

Running back Darren Sproles, acquired from the New Orleans Saints for a fifth-round pick, signed a two-year contract extension with the Philadelphia Eagles.

Sproles, who turns 31 before the start of the regular season, said the Eagles' offense could be scary with all of the weapons assembled by general manager Howie Roseman. Sproles will keep his 2014 salary and is now under contract for the '15 and '16 seasons.

"It could get real crazy," Sproles said Friday, his first meeting with media since being dealt by the Saints.

Sproles said he is excited about the possibilities and didn't consider a contract extension until sitting down with the Philadelphia brass. Despite his age -- a marker that often signifies a physical decline is coming in NFL running backs -- Sproles has relatively low miles.

"Darren is a player that we have admired for many years -- he's a proven performer at a high level," general manager Howie Roseman said.

Sproles will be a backup to LeSean McCoy but also likely play some wide receiver -- and who knows what else, according to Sproles -- in the Eagles' uptempo offense and contribute to the return game.

Sproles was a key piece of the Drew Brees-led offense in New Orleans but played more of a receiver role than a traditional running back. He had just 53 carries last season and 101 rushing attempts the past two seasons compared to consecutive 70-reception seasons with nine touchdowns receiving.

At least six teams were in on the bidding to land Sproles, who is scheduled to make $3.5 million in 2014, which was the final year of a four-year, $14 million contract he signed in 2011 before his new deal with the Eagles was finalized Friday.

Eagles head coach Chip Kelly is sure to find multiple uses for the 30-year-old, 10-year veteran.

"Darren Sproles is an unbelievable offensive weapon," Kelly said. "He can do it all, run, catch, plus he's a proven winner. And on top of that, he can bring all of those dynamic skills to the return game as well. There is no question we were all excited once we found out we were going to be able to trade for him."

Sproles was expendable in New Orleans where the Saints are shaving money to make improvements in other areas, including defense and their offensive line. The Saints re-signed running back Pierre Thomas and have former first-round draft pick Mark Ingram under contract.

Kelly covets players with versatility and especially playmakers who excel in one-on-one situations in the open field. With McCoy, Sproles and DeSean Jackson, the Eagles would have speed and explosiveness aplenty across the formation.

Jackson and Sproles are proven, capable return men.

The Eagles led the NFL in rushing last season with 2,688 yards and averaged 6.1 yards per carry. Suddenly their cup runneth over at running back with McCoy ahead of Sproles, Bryce Brown and Chris Polk.

McCoy had 314 carries in 2013 -- and only one other running back had more than 260 (Matt Forte, Chicago Bears, 289). For preservation, spotting McCoy is logical but Sproles is not accustomed to that role, averaging no more than five carries per game with the Saints.