How Rams’ win should influence Eagles’ decision on Sanders originally appeared on NBC Sports Philadelphia
The Los Angeles Rams’ running backs ran the ball 19 times for just 30 yards on Sunday vs. the Bengals, and the team won the Super Bowl.
Running the ball is good and cool, and it’s great that the Eagles did it well this year, but the final game of the NFL’s latest season was yet another reminder that investing big money in a running back simply doesn’t make much sense.
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For an even better visualization check out this chart from NFL reporter Marcus Mosher, who looked back at the last 13 years of Super Bowl champions to see how much each team was paying its leading rusher in that game:
In short: not a lot!
The Eagles are heading into the final year of Miles Sanders’ rookie deal, which has been a delightful bargain: Sanders has counted for $3.65 million against the cap over three years while running 480 times for 2,439 yards and nine TDs, plus 104 receptions for 864 yards and three TDs. That’s great value!
The question, of course, is whether we can reasonably expect Sanders to show some kind of marked improvement that would make paying him substantially more a good use of cap space. Sanders has looked like the same running back for about three years now, a solid and potentially explosive RB with a bit of a penchant for ball security issues and negative plays.
It’s easy to get swept up in his excellent career yards per attempt figure (5.1) and his strong 2021 ranking in rushing yards over expected per attempt (0.90, third in the NFL) when the fact is he wasn’t even the most effective running back on his own team this year.
A look at the Eagles’ four primary running backs by EPA (expected points added) per rush:
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Third on his own team is tough! The stat will skew a little bit towards someone like Scott, who had an inordinate amount of goal-line touches compared to his overall rushing total, but all four backs here got touches all over the field.
Basically anyone who ran for the Eagles this year was going to have a good time because Nick Sirianni and Jeff Stoutland schemed up a great rushing offense.
And, assuming nothing goes horribly wrong, the same should be true next year and into the future, with key O-line pieces like Jordan Mailata, Landon Dickerson, and Lane Johnson locked up for years to come.
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All of this is to say: Howie Roseman and the Eagles’ front office should not invest a lot of money in Sanders after this season. If he’s willing to take a discount to stay in his home state and in the only NFL organization he’s ever known? Then we can talk. But I’d imagine Sanders will be looking for a solid pay-day as he hits the open market (as he should!) and in that case I’m not interested.
The Rams had a first-round pick and a second-round pick running in Sunday’s Super Bowl, neither one could do anything, and they still won. When the Eagles won the Super Bowl they added a veteran entering his eighth year in the league for $1.25 million and he balled out.
Running back value can be found all over the place. So go find it.