Remember earlier this week, when Howie Roseman basically told Eagles fans to relax about the running back position?
Well, now we know why.
The Eagles on Thursday evening traded a conditional late-round draft pick in 2020 to the Bears for former Pro Bowl running back Jordan Howard.
The Eagles gave up a sixth-round pick that can turn into a fifth-rounder in 2020, a league source confirmed. ESPN first reported the terms. Definitely not a bad price to get a running back who will step in and immediately help the Eagles’ already-dynamic offense.
And it also won’t cost the Eagles a ton of money either. Howard is owed a base salary of $2.025 million in 2019, the final year of his rookie contract. The Eagles came into the day with over $24 million in cap space.
The connection to Howard has been pretty obvious for a while now for several reasons:
1. The Eagles obviously needed more help at the running back position and Howard has rushed for over 3,300 yards in his first three NFL seasons.
2. Eagles VP of player personnel Joe Douglas was the Bears’ director of college scouting for one season in 2015, the same year the Bears scouted Howard out of Indiana before they drafted him. The Eagles took Wendell Smallwood a few picks later. Douglas has been very influential in the acquisition of players since his arrival to the Eagles.
3. By trading for Howard instead of signing a running back, he doesn’t count toward the Eagles’ compensatory pick formula. The Eagles are stockpiling draft picks to give their roster an infusion of young and cheap talent over the next few years and have been very strategic to not hurt themselves with that formula.
So what are the Eagles getting in Howard?
Well, he likely figures into the rotation as their primary runner on first and second downs. He hasn’t been a great receiver out of the backfield, but has put up really solid numbers as a rusher. He ran for 1,313 yards in his rookie season when he was named to the Pro Bowl. In 2017, he rushed for 1,122. And last year, he rushed for 935, but his yards-per-attempt average dropped to 3.7.
Despite the clear drop-off in production last season, Howard is still third in the NFL in rushing yards since he entered the league in 2016.
Ezekiel Elliott: 4,048
Todd Gurley: 3,441
That’s not to say Howard, 24, is in their class. He definitely isn’t. And his yards per carry have dropped each year of his career. But Howard has proven to be a productive player in the league and if Doug Pederson can figure out how to use him correctly, the Eagles should be able to get more production out of him in 2019. He also excels in short-yardage situation, an area in which the Eagles needed to improve.
And for the price, it’s a no-brainer. They got Howard for a full season for less than they got Jay Ajayi for half a year.
I still think the Eagles would have been better off signing Mark Ingram or Tevin Coleman after seeing how reasonable their contracts were, but Howard is the best of the bargain bin. And the Eagles have made it clear they are looking for bargains at the running back position.
But at least Howard is a clear improvement over what the Eagles had. He’ll join a running back group that still includes Corey Clement, Smallwood, Josh Adams and Boston Scott. And because they didn’t give up very much to get Howard and because he’s in the final year of his rookie contract, I still wouldn’t rule out the possibility of drafting one — perhaps even in the first few rounds — in about a month.
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