The Philadelphia Eagles landed a dangerous playmaker in their backfield last month when they traded for former New Orleans Saints running back Darren Sproles, but they were originally after a bigger prize. Geoff Mosher of CSNPhilly.com reports that the Eagles contacted the Buffalo Bills earlier this offseason about trading for Pro Bowl running back C.J. Spiller.
The Bills understandably had no interest in moving one of the game's most dynamic offensive talents and talks never escalated to the offer stage.
The Eagles settled instead for Sproles, who was released by the Saints in early March. While the shifty, sure-handed Sproles is a spectacular fit in a Philly offense that loves to get playmakers in space, the concept of Spiller sharing a backfield with superstar LeSean McCoy is beyond intriguing.
Spiller is the exact type of speedy, do-it-all back that Eagles coach Chip Kelly covets. There are only two players in NFL history with at least 3,000 rushing yards, 1,000 receiving yards, 1,150 kick-return yards and 300 punt-return yards in their first four seasons, according to Mosher. One is Spiller. The other is Hall of Fame running back Gale Sayers.
The Eagles like to get the ball in the hands of their backs any way they can, and are one of the best screen teams in the league. McCoy ranked in the top 10 among running backs for receptions and receiving yards last season. While Spiller had 19 fewer receptions and under half the receiving yardage of McCoy in 2013, his explosive ability and shiftiness would have been a perfect fit for the system.
Not that the Eagles are upset with having to settle for Sproles, who was fourth among running backs in receptions last season and thrived in the Saints' pass-happy attack. Sproles also came much cheaper than Spiller would have. Grabbing Spiller would have required significantly more compensation than the over. Sproles is also easier on the salary cap. He's under a three-year, $10.5 million contract that will count an affordable $2 million on the cap next season. Spiller has two years remaining on a five-year, $25.67 million deal and is scheduled to count $5.97 against the cap in 2014.
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The 26-year-old Spiller does have age on his side. Sproles will turn 31 this summer.
Despite the age advantage, Spiller has suffered through injury issues. He battled a high ankle sprain last season and played in roughly one third of the team's offensive snaps. He can opt out of his contract after next season, meaning the Bills would need to move him soon or risk losing him without compensation next year.