PHILADELPHIA — The Philadelphia Eagles lost lead running back Jay Ajayi to a torn ACL this week, stripping an already sputtering offense of one of its primary weapons. Led by one of the most aggressive personnel men in the business in Howie Roseman, and with hopes of a Super Bowl repeat still alive in Philly, speculation is running wild as to whether a trade for a running back is in the cards between now and the Oct. 30 deadline.
Let’s take a look at some of the big names being thrown around, as well as some under-the-radar options provided by our NFL Nation reporters.
Le’Veon Bell, Pittsburgh Steelers (26 years old)
The big fish. It’s easy to see why the Eagles, or any team for that matter, would be interested in perhaps the best back in the NFL. He’d instantly improve the ground game and the passing game, both as a receiver and in pass protection, while adding an explosive, dynamic back who would open things up for his teammates and instantly lift this offense off the ground. Roseman and Co. are always on the lookout for market anomalies: How often does a player of this caliber become available? From that perspective, a talent like Bell has to be intriguing.
The Eagles recently restructured Fletcher Cox‘s contract to create cap room, but according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter and Chris Mortensen, they have not pursued a trade for Bell and do not have plans to do so at this time. The Eagles will need a portion of that cap space to re-sign some of their in-house players over the next couple of seasons — Carson Wentz is going to get a massive contract before long — and it would be difficult to re-sign Bell, who is in the last year of his deal, to a massive new contract given their financial situation.
Reports surfaced Tuesday that the Eagles have checked in on McCoy’s availability since news of Ajayi’s injury came down. That makes sense, given McCoy’s familiarity with the Eagles organization (he spent his first six seasons in Philadelphia) and experience in systems similar to coach Doug Pederson’s. McCoy is 30 years old, and perhaps the Buffalo Bills want to get some value for him as they look to replenish the roster. The flip side is that McCoy is currently one of the Bills’ top players. Sitting at 2-3, they probably aren’t looking to throw in the towel on the 2018 season. The asking price might not match the level of interest. The Eagles would also have to be comfortable with their research into off-the-field matters surrounding McCoy of late.
We asked our fellow NFL Nation reporters for backs on their teams who could potentially be available Here’s what came back:
“The Lions’ starter last year, Abdullah has yet to have a carry in a game this year and was inactive the first four weeks of the season. He can be a multi-purpose back and has returner value. Also in the last year of his contract.” — Mike Rothstein
“He’s been Seattle’s No. 2 back for the last few weeks behind Chris Carson and ahead of top pick Rashaad Penny. Had 101 yards and two TDs two weeks ago with Carson out. Seahawks are about to have a bit of a logjam at RB with J.D. McKissic set to come off IR, and you figure they’ll want to get Penny more work than he’s been getting. Davis is 25 and playing on a one-year deal worth $1.35 million. Not a bad special teams player either.” — Brady Henderson
“Newsome is on the Chargers practice squad, but made the active roster out of training camp. He also can return kicks.” — Eric Williams
Other names to consider
Just looking at some RB situations around the league, thinking of guys that could possibly be available if the Eagles wanted to trade for one (and could make cap room):
….wait for it…
— Dan Graziano (@DanGrazianoESPN) October 8, 2018
ESPN’s Dan Graziano posted a list of backs the Eagles could take a look at:
Tevin Coleman, 25, share carries in Atlanta with Devonta Freeman and Ito Smith. He is in the final year of his rookie contract. LeGarrette Blount, 31, was the Eagles’ top rusher last season (766 yards, 2 TDs) during their Super Bowl run. He fit into the locker room well and would be able to acclimate quickly.
With three weeks remaining before the trade deadline, the Eagles can take some time to see how their own backs perform before making a move if they wish. It will likely be a committee approach between Corey Clement, Wendell Smallwood and Darren Sproles, when healthy, with rookie Josh Adams sprinkled in. Sproles has been sidelined since Week 1 with a hamstring injury and did not practice on Tuesday. Clement (quad) has returned to action after sitting out the last couple of games.
From a fantasy perspective, Clement would be the most appealing option, followed by Smallwood, though it would probably be best to wait and see how things shake out over the next couple of weeks.
The search for help likely won’t be limited to running back. The Eagles could use help at receiver and in the defensive secondary as well. Roseman will be working the phones to see if there are deals out there that make sense.