After shipping LeSean McCoy to Buffalo, the Philadelphia Eagles have found their backfield centerpiece, signing DeMarco Murray to a five-year, $42 million contract Thursday.
Which probably wouldn’t have happened had the Eagles not traded Nick Foles for Sam Bradford.
“Bradford and DeMarco Murray are very close,” Philadelphia Inquirer columnist Mike Sielski said on CBS Sports Radio’s After Hours with Amy Lawrence. “They were roommates at Oklahoma. I think Bradford’s presence and his lobbying made this happen, and it made the Eagles realize, ‘Hey, we can do this. We can get Ryan Matthews and DeMarco Murray at the same time and create, in theory, a pretty potent backfield.’”
Sielski isn’t sure if that was Chip Kelly’s master plan all along, but things are certainly coming together nicely for the Eagles.
“I don’t know that there’s a solid plan that Chip is really sticking with here,” Sielski said. “He’s more kind of setting himself up for saying, ‘Hey, I want to run the ball. That’s what I do. That’s what my system is based on, and I want to try to find good running backs to do that.’ He tried to get Frank Gore. It didn’t work out. So he came back with Matthews and with Murray. So I don’t think it was necessarily planned all along that, ‘Hey, I’ll go get these two backs and we’ll be good to go.’ It just sort of shook out that way.”
It remains to be seen what the Eagles will do with Darren Sproles, who turns 32 in June.
“That’s an interesting question,” Sielski said. “When they acquired Sproles before last season, they were insistent that they were going to use him as a running back. They were not going to use him in the way he had been used in New Orleans, which is basically as another wide receiver. (They said) that they were going to hand him the ball. And (they) did. He carried the ball quite a bit for them last year.”
Sproles carried 57 times for 329 yards (5.8 yards per carry) and six touchdowns – one more than LeSean McCoy had on 312 carries. Sproles also caught 40 balls for 387 yards.
“So I wonder if he’s going to go back to more of the kind of role we saw him (have in New Orleans): lining up in the slot, acting more as a receiver,” Sielski said. “Because right now, the Eagles are pretty thin at wide receiver. You’ve got Jordan Matthews, who had a very good rookie season. You’ve got Riley Cooper, who regressed last season after having a pretty big year in 2013. And that’s really it in terms of quote-unquote proven NFL wideouts. So moving Sproles to the outside may help, but by the same token, you’ve got two other backs in Matthews and Murray who (have durability issues).
Matthews played all 16 games just once in five seasons with San Diego and missed 10 games last year with MCL and ankle injuries. Murray, meanwhile, missed games in each of his first three years before totaling an absurd 449 touches last season.
“We all know how often he carried the ball and touched the ball last season,” Sielski said. “You have to expect there’s going to be a little bit of regression. I would think Sproles would carry the ball some still to mitigate the wear and tear that Murray and Matthews are going to take this season.”