THE APPROPRIATE reaction to the Eagles' signing of LeGarrette Blount is not "Super Bowl here we come!" given that Blount is 30, and he has been sitting on the free-agency shelf, gathering dust, for a couple of months now. Howie Roseman probably will have to peel off a couple of those orange "REDUCED PRICE" stickers before he sends Blount out to face the cameras Thursday at NovaCare.
But is this one-year signing, reportedly for $1.25 million plus incentives that could more than double that, helpful to the overall mission? I would argue that it is, regardless of whether you define that mission as making the playoffs this season, or just continuing the development of Carson Wentz toward the day when he can lead the team to a championship.
"Awesome teammate. Lot left in the tank," tweeted Eagles defensive end Chris Long, the other New England expatriate/ex-Patriot.
I doubt Blount will amass anything close to the 299 carries for 1,161 yards and 18 touchdowns he managed last season for the Super Bowl champion Patriots. Ryan Mathews and Darren Sproles together carried 249 times last season. The Eagles run a West Coast offense, in which backs generally need to be passable passing options. Blount's career high is 15 receptions, back in 2011 with Tampa.
But at 6-1, 245, he ought to be a huge help at the goal line, and in short-yardage overall, where the 2016 Eagles struggled. Those 18 rushing touchdowns Blount blasted his way to were the most in the NFL since Adrian Peterson had that total, in 2009. The Eagles, as a team, had 16 last season.
NFL Research tweeted Wednesday that the 2016 Birds were 27th in short-yardage conversion percentage, 21st in short-yardage yards per carry. Blount led the league with an amazing 5.4 yards per carry in third- or fourth-and-short. Granted, he was running behind New England's line, but still.
Blount won't be much of a target for Wentz but he will help keep the pass rush off him; play action will have to be respected, and apparently, if you pick up a third- or fourth-and-one, the quarterback gets a new set of downs to work with, a phenomenon Wentz no doubt will be thrilled to experience. Last season, Blount was 13-for-19 in third- or fourth-and-3 yards or less to go.
Why was he available? At 30, with 100 games' worth of mileage, you could make a case that he is on the verge of decline. ESPN's Adam Schefter tweeted that Blount had only one other suitor, Arizona, which Schefter said showed "some mild interest." The NFL Network's Ian Rapoport tweeted that Blount had offers from the Cards and Giants. Blount's average of 3.9 yards per carry last season was his lowest since 2012, when he carried just 41 times for 151 yards in Tampa.
New England placed an unrestricted free-agent tender on Blount, an unusual maneuver aimed at recouping a compensatory pick if he signed elsewhere. The tender also meant Blount would count against compensatory picks that the team signing him might get; it was thought this might keep him from being signed by anyone other than the Pats. But, no. The Eagles, who more or less gained as much in free agency as they lost, weren't getting any compensatory picks next year anyway.
Blount, with 5,122 career rushing yards on 1,168 carries, is easily the most accomplished back in a young, unheralded Eagles group. His acquisition will increase speculation that fourth-round draftee Donnel Pumphrey, who weighed in at 169 during Senior Bowl week, might be used mainly as a passing weapon from the slot. The Eagles are still expected to release Ryan Mathews when he is cleared after recovering from neck disk surgery, something a source close to the situation said won't happen until June.
The major theme of the Eagles' offseason has been giving their second-year quarterback some real firepower to work with. Alshon Jeffery - also a one-year signing - headlines a receiving group that now includes Torrey Smith and draftees Mack Hollins and Shelton Gibson. Pumphrey joins Sproles, Wendell Smallwood, Byron Marshall and undrafted rookie Corey Clement, whose chances of making the team probably took a hit with Blount's signing.
Blount isn't likely to be here in two or three years when the Eagles hope to be top-tier Super Bowl contenders, but he nudges the needle a little closer to contending for a postseason berth in 2017.
"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," de facto general manager Howie Roseman said in a statement released by the team. "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."
The Eagles will have to make a roster move when Blount officially signs on Thursday. Their first full-team OTA work starts Tuesday.