PHILADELPHIA -- The Eagles really are into this depth thing for 2019.
Friday evening the team announced it has signed 36-year-old running back and returner Darren Sproles to a one-year contract. Sproles ranks sixth on the NFL career all-purpose yards list, with 19,520, just 152 yards behind former Raiders star Tim Brown, who is in the Hall of Fame. That probably factors into Sproles' desire to head to training camp Wednesday for a 15th NFL season, despite the frustrations of the past two years.
"My heart is in Philly. That's where I want to end my career," Sproles said in a team news release. "That team, the city is like a family."
Older fans might be able to reach back into the memory banks to when Sproles was first set to retire -- he said before the 2017 season that it would be his last go-round. But Sproles watched Super Bowl LII from the sideline, after suffering season-ending arm and knee injuries in a Week 3 victory over the Giants.
So Sproles and the Eagles hit "reset" on a one-year deal, only to see a hamstring injury suffered in the 2018 season opener cost him the next 10 games. Sproles returned against Washington Dec. 3 and played the final five contests, plus the two playoff games, and he definitely gave a boost to a ground game that had been bereft without Sproles, and Jay Ajayi and Corey Clement out with knee injuries. Sproles carried 29 times for 120 yards, 4.1 yards per carry. He also improved blitz pickup, and he took a Nick Foles pass 37 yards for a touchdown in the upset victory over Houston; it was the longest reception of the season for an Eagles running back.
As usual, Sproles worked out this offseason near his home in California with Drew Brees, his former Saints quarterback, and Chase Daniel, his backup QB with the Saints and the Eagles, amid rumblings that Sproles would try for one more healthy season. There was talk the Saints might be interested, but Eagles coach Doug Pederson and running backs coach Duce Staley both indicated they would like to have Sproles join a revamped group that includes free-agent signee Jordan Howard and second-round rookie Miles Sanders, along with Clement and fellow holdovers Wendell Smallwood, Josh Adams, Boston Scott, and Donnell Pumphrey.
Younger guys like Clement and Scott might look intriguing when projected into Sproles-type roles, but Sproles has been to three Pro Bowls, and they have not.
Though it is rare for a 90-man roster to achieve collective sentience, the Eagles attributed the following quote to "the team," instead of any coach or executive: "We are excited to bring Darren back. It isn't very often that you have the opportunity to add a player who has the sixth-most total yards in NFL history. He is the ultimate professional, and a leader on and off the field. He will add another proven talent to our running back room. His dynamic punt return skills are second to none. We can't wait to get started next week."
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