The Eagles just got a little bit older and a lot more exciting.
The Eagles on Friday evening re-signed 36-year-old running back Darren Sproles, who was mulling retirement when last year ended but apparently wants to play one more year (at least).
"My heart is in Philly," Sproles said on the team's web site. "That's where I want to end my career. That team, the city is like a family. I really want to go out on top. That's what I really want to do. I can't wait to get back with the guys."
Sproles, who became an unrestricted free agent when last year ended, spent the last five years with the Eagles and made the Pro Bowl in 2014, 2015 and 2016 before being limited by injuries to just nine games over the last two seasons.
Although he ranks sixth in NFL history in all-purpose yards, Sproles was limited in 2017 to just three games and 22 touches and missed the Super Bowl run thanks to a broken arm and torn ACL he suffered against the Giants and last year was limited to just six games and 44 touches because of a nagging hamstring injury.
He did return last year for the postseason but averaged just 1.6 yards on 16 carries with 5-for-35 receiving and one punt return for minus-one yard in the games against the Bears and Saints.
In his first three seasons with the Eagles, Sproles netted 1,084 rushing yards, 147 catches for 1,202 more yards and 14 offensive touchdowns along with four punt return TDs.
Because the Eagles are deep at running back, it’s likely Sproles’ main role will be as a punt returner.
He led the NFL with a 13.0 average in 2014 and his 12.1 average since the start of 2014 is highest in the NFL among returners with at least 50 returns.
The Eagles also re-signed DeSean Jackson this past offseason, and Jackson — like Sproles — is a former NFL punt return leader (with the Eagles in 2009) and also has four career punt return TDs. But he’s not expected to be their full-time punt returner.
Only seven players in NFL history have four career punt return touchdowns and 8,300 career yards from scrimmage, and the Eagles now have two of them in Jackson and Sproles. (The others are Joey Galloway, Antonio Brown, Reggie Bush, Henry Ellard and Steve Smith).
Sproles ranks sixth in NFL history with 19,520 all-purpose yards. He trails only Jerry Rice (23,546), former Eagle Brian Mitchell (23,330), Walter Payton (21,803), Emmitt Smith (21,564) and Tim Brown (19,682). All are Hall of Famers except Mitchell (who should be).
Sproles has 3,486 rushing yards, a 4.9 average, 547 catches, 4,816 receiving yards, a 9.6 average with seven touchdowns on punt returns and a 25.2 average with two touchdowns on kick returns.
Of the 48 players in NFL history with 3,000 rushing yards and 3,000 receiving yards, Sproles’ 4.9 career rushing average is highest.
His nine combined punt and kick returns are tied for sixth-most in NFL history behind Devin Hester (19), Mitchell (13), Dante Hall (12), Eric Metcalf (12), Josh Cribbs (11).
Sproles enters a crowded backfield that also includes rookie second-round pick Miles Sanders, former Bear Jordan Howard, who was acquired in a trade, Super Bowl hero Corey Clement, 2018 Eagles leading rusher Josh Adams, former Saint Boston Scott and 2016 fifth-round pick Wendell Smallwood.
The Eagles are scheduled to report for training camp at the NovaCare Complex on Wednesday with the first practice following on Thursday.
Sproles originally entered the NFL as a fourth-round pick out of Kansas State in 2005. He was with the Chargers for six years and the Saints for three before signing with the Eagles in 2014.
If Sproles scores a touchdown this year, he’ll become the oldest player in franchise history to do so.
The oldest Eagle ever to score a touchdown is Irving Fryar, who was 36 years and 76 days old when he scored against the Cards on Dec. 13, 1998.
Sproles will be 36 years and 100 days when the Eagles open the regular season against the Redskins on Sept. 8.
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