Blount gives Eagles balance in the backfield | Jeff McLane

For all the hand-wringing over the lack of movement at running back earlier this offseason, the Eagles remained patient both in free agency and the draft and added two pieces without overspending at a position that continues to decrease in value in the pass-happy NFL.

Despite a narrative about a renaissance at running back, teams are still reluctant to invest in a position where the players have a shorter life span and a lessening impact - at least individually - on the game.

The Eagles, who have their future invested in quarterback Carson Wentz, followed that formula.

More than two months after free agency opened, they signed LeGarrette Blount, who rushed for more than 1,000 yards and led the NFL in rushing touchdowns last season, to a one-year, cost-efficient contract last week. And in the draft last month, they resisted the urge to trade up for running backs in the first two rounds, and instead waited until the fourth round to take Donnell Pumphrey.

There isn't one blueprint for building a Super Bowl contender. Offenses constructed partially around a franchise-caliber tailback can be successful. But having one isn't a necessity Having an elite quarterback and above-average play along the lines, however, are almost always prerequisites for winning a title.

The Patriots have proved that point many times. Having Tom Brady solves a lot of problems, but his salary cap number has often required creativity when filling in the skill position pieces around the quarterback. The running back names change in New England every three to four years, but the production - often by committee - remains consistent.

This offseason's market wasn't deep, but the Eagles avoided signing the more expensive Latavius Murray (three years, $15 million) and Adrian Peterson (two years, $7 million) in free agency. They were enamored with both Christian McCaffrey and Dalvin Cook, but drafting either would have cost additional picks as each was chosen before the Eagles selected.

The Eagles didn't force the issue because the position doesn't require it and because they had greater needs at wide receiver and cornerback. They also had enough running backs in place, with Darren Sproles and Wendell Smallwood, so that all they had to do was fill in some complementary pieces if they wanted a Patriots-like, multi-headed backfield.

Pumphery, who set the NCAA major-division record for career rushing yards, has some differences from Sproles and Smallwood. But like them he's on the small side, and picking him meant the Eagles still lacked a big-bodied back. It has been understood for some time that Ryan Mathews, who has filled that role, will be released as soon as he's 100 percent healthy.

But acquiring the 6-foot, 250-some-pound Blount gave the Eagles potentially a stable of complementary running backs. He logged a career-high 299 carries last season, but that was an anomaly for both him and the Patriots. Dion Lewis' early-season injury forced coach Bill Belichick to ride Blount more than any other running back during the last 13 years.

Blount would seem to be the most likely to pace the Eagles in carries this season, but he wasn't signed to be the alpha dog. His contract is worth up to $2.8 million, but the base salary is only $1.25 million. Blount said that he preferred to receive a certain amount of carries to get into a rhythm, but aside from last year, he has never averaged more than 13 carries a game.

"I've played with other running backs before," Blount said Thursday. "I split time with Steven Ridley. I've split time with Cadillac Williams. . . . It doesn't bother me."

If Belichick had a Peterson over the last decade, you can be certain that he wouldn't have spread touches around as much. He has relied on one back more than others in some seasons, but having a variety of options in which touches - both on the ground and through the air - are relatively split has helped some of the Patriots' best teams.

Last season, for instance, as New England secured home field throughout and then transitioned into the postseason, it increased Lewis' workload - not long after he returned from injury - at the expense of Blount.

In their final six games, including the playoffs, Blount had 87 carries and one catch, Lewis had 70 and 10, and James White had 13 and 28, respectively. Sometimes Blount had more touches, and other times it was Lewis. In the Super Bowl, White rushed six times for 29 yards and two touchdowns and caught an NFL-record 14 passes for 110 yards and one touchdown.

Balance in the backfield can make it difficult for defenses to prepare and to match up and it allows for offenses to ride the hot hand, as the Patriots and Brady did with White in the greatest comeback in Super Bowl history.

The Eagles would appear to have complementary parts with Blount as the obvious running-down, short-yardage and goal line option, Sproles the change-of-pace, pass-catching, third-down blocking option, and Smallwood and Pumphrey as a mixture of both depending upon the circumstance.

The Patriots actually invested in the position more than any other team this offseason, although the contracts given out to restricted free agent Mike Gillislee (two years, $6.4 million) and Rex Burkhead (one year, $3.15 million) and fullback James Develin (two years, $2.5 million) aren't long and don't break the bank.

But with Lewis and White still on the roster, the Patriots currently have the third-highest payroll ($13,470,522) at the position this year. But has there been a better modern-day evaluator of talent from other teams with the ability to project the players into the New England offense than Belichick?

The Eagles, meanwhile, once they release Mathews and his $5 million number, will be in the middle of the league in cap allocation.

Blount doesn't come without concerns. He will turn 31 in December and totaled 394 touches last season, including the postseason. Many ex-Patriot running backs, including Blount, who left New England after his first stint there, have not fared well in other offenses.

But if Blount can be half as effective as he was in short-yardage and goal-line situations - he rushed for 107 yards on 19 third- or fourth-down carries from one or two yards and converted 12 of 18 touchdowns from a yard out - it would be an improvement over what the Eagles did in similar situations last season.

Blount may be one of the "Band-Aid" additions that Howie Roseman said early in the offseason that he was hoping to avoid, but some Band-Aids work, especially at running back, where the quarterback and the offensive line can have as much influence.

jmclane@phillynews.com

@Jeff_McLane