The Eagles finally landed the big running back they have needed throughout the offseason when LeGarrette Blount agreed to a one-year deal Wednesday.
Blount, 30, comes to the Eagles from New England, where he rushed for 1,161 yards and a league-high 18 touchdowns for the Super Bowl champion Patriots last season. He averaged only 3.9 yards per carry, but the 6-foot, 250-pound bruiser gives the Eagles a physical presence in their backfield.
The Eagles are expected to eventually part ways with veteran Ryan Mathews, who is still recovering from a neck injury. They will need to release a player to open a roster spot for Blount.
Blount's contract is worth up to $2.8 million, with $400,000 in total guaranteed money. His age is one of the reasons he lasted so long on the open market - age 30 can be an unsightly plateau for running backs, and there is far more supply than demand for rushers at that point in their careers. The Eagles waited until after the draft to plug the hole, but without Blount, the only running backs on the roster larger than 208 pounds are Mathews and undrafted rookie Corey Clement. Mathews' expected departure will open $4 million of salary-cap space, and Clement is no lock to make the roster.
"LeGarrette Blount is a tough, physical runner who has enjoyed a great deal of success in New England and we are excited about adding him to this football team," Eagles executive Howie Roseman said in a statement. "We feel good about the depth and competition that we have created at the running back position and we are looking forward to getting the guys out on the field next week for OTAs."
Blount will likely join a running back committee this season with Darren Sproles, Wendell Smallwood, and Donnel Pumphrey. Blount gives the Eagles a rusher who has proved able to handle a heavy workload in the NFL. He had 299 carries last season and has 34 career regular-season games with at least 15 carries.
The Eagles could also use his prowess in short-yardage situations. They ran the ball 35 times last year on third and fourth downs with 1 to 3 yards to go, and only 21 rushes netted a first down and three resulted in touchdowns. Blount gained a first down or scored a touchdown on 18 of 20 carries in those situations with the Patriots last season.
This was the latest addition made to help quarterback Carson Wentz. The Eagles offense could have four new wide receivers and two new running backs. Although it would qualify as the type of "Band-Aid" move that Roseman did not want to rely upon, it was a low-cost way to fill a hole without compromising cap space or draft picks for future seasons when Wentz is ascending into his prime. This is likely Sproles' last year, too, so the Eagles could reshape their backfield for 2018.
Blount has played for Tampa Bay, Pittsburgh, and New England, but most of his success has come with the Patriots. After rushing for 1,007 yards as a rookie for the Buccaneers in 2010, he lost his job and went to New England. He averaged 5 yards per carry in 2013 with the Patriots, earning a contract with the Steelers. His stint with Pittsburgh lasted 11 games. He was arrested before a preseason game against the Eagles and charged with marijuana possession, and he was waived in midseason after he walked off the field early in a game in which he did not earn a carry. He quickly found his way back to New England, where he has since won two Super Bowls.
Blount played for Oregon during former Eagles coach Chip Kelly's first game with the Ducks, when Blount punched an opposing player. Kelly suspended Blount but kept him on scholarship and in the football program, and ultimately reinstated Blount after the running back met academic and behavioral conditions. Former Super Bowl-winning coach Tony Dungy, whom Kelly talked with at the time, credited that decision with helping save Blount's career.
"I told him he shouldn't be defined by an incident that happened on Sept. 3, 2009, because that's not the type of person LG is," Kelly said in August 2013.
On that day, Blount practiced against the Eagles as a member of the Patriots. He will return to that South Philadelphia practice field next week when the Eagles begin organized team activities with a reshaped offense around Wentz.