The New Orleans Saints continued their wheeling and dealing this offseason by parting ways with Darren Sproles via a trade to the Philadelphia Eagles in exchange for a 5th-round pick. Cutting bait with Sproles was yet another emotionally draining move for Saints fans as the diminutive back was a fan favorite. However, the move- though unpopular- is the right one (as I alluded to a few weeks ago) from a football and a financial standpoint.
Sproles was very productive when he first signed with the Saints as he helped the Saints’ offense set records including setting the single season all-purpose yards record for himself in 2011. And even this season he started out fast, especially as a receiver. However, the NFL is a “what have you done for me lately?” league.
And towards the end of the season, Sproles’ production started to drop off significantly. From Week 11 to the end of the season (including the playoffs) he wasn’t able to crack more than 40 yards receiving or 40 yards rushing. This wasn’t a result of the Saints spreading the production around. Sproles just simply wasn’t able to produce as the offense became far too predictable when he was in the game.
In addition, the screen pass, a staple in the offense, and one of Sproles’ fortes was averaging less than 2 yards per play for the last 6 weeks of the season. In addition, Sproles’ special team numbers were grossly below average, ranking in the bottom half on kick returns and 30th on punt returns.
Besides the dwindling production, financially the move made a lot of sense. With Sproles becoming more of a part time player and younger running backs like Mark Ingram and Khiry Robinson becoming more effective on the back half of the season, especially in the playoffs, it was just economical to get rid of Sproles.
With Ingram and Robinson running well, there simply wasn’t enough touches to go around for Sproles. And with Ingram making around $1 million and Robinson making less than that, Sproles’ $3.5 million salary really made no sense given his age and diminished role.
Now, some fans may say that a 5th round pick is little too low of a price; they may be right. However, the going rate for running backs is pretty low, especially ones that are 30 years and over. Also, one has to remember that a 5th round pick is better than getting nothing, which is what the Saints would have ultimately gotten for him if he was to be released.
Though there is a ton a negativity in this article, I am not trying to say Sproles is a worthless player. He is still a mismatch nightmare for defenses, and can still put up numbers even at his age. However, when an organization has too many players at one position like the Saints do at running back, it is usually better to keep two young, cheap backs than it is to keep one old pricey back.
So essentially, Sproles was just a victim of his own price tag. And honestly, as the numbers suggest, his effectiveness in this offense was wearing thin from defenses finally keying in on him. Sproles was a great back for the Saints, but Mickey Loomis was correct in cutting ties and moving on.
Now that Sproles is in Philadelphia (which is great fit for him), the Saints will look forward to using their two young backs as well as Pierre Thomas. It still remains to be seen what the Saints will do in terms of replacing him, but if the last eight years have shown anything, Loomis always seems to have an answer.