The Birds finally got their back. On Thursday night, the Eagles traded their 2020 sixth round pick (which can possibly turn into a fifth) to the Chicago Bears in exchange for running back Jordan Howard.
This is a great move for the Eagles.
They finally got a proven back to put in their backfield. It was starting to look like Howie was going to roll into the season with just Corey Clement, Wendell Smallwood and Josh Adams as the team’s feature backs. This move will shore up the backfield rotation and adds another weapon to an already loaded Birds offense.
The Eagles now have Pro Bowl caliber players at every level of their offense. Barring any major injuries, there’s no reason to expect this offense won’t finish in the top five in 2019.
Since entering the league in 2016, Howard is third in the NFL in rushing yardage, behind only Ezekiel Elliot and Todd Gurley. Howard’s a bruising north and south runner who hits the hole as soon as it opens up. In Chicago, the team ran a lot of stretch zone and trap plays for Howard. Doug will run the same type of plays for him here in Philly.
Last season when Matt Nagy took over head coaching duties for the Bears, Howard did see a drop in production. He only saw about 57 percent of the snaps last year in Nagy’s offense. But it wasn’t an indictment on Howard’s play, it was more so due to the emergence of Tarik Cohen as a true play maker out of the backfield. This move by the Bears proves that Nagy values Cohen’s versatility over Howard’s between-the-tackle running ability.
Howard will likely see a similar percentage of snaps here in Philly, coach Pederson has always used a running back by committee approach. He averaged 15.6 carries per game in 2018 and I would guess that he stays around that number for this upcoming season.
The one downfall to Howard’s game is his pass catching ability, which is the main reason his percentage of snaps went down in Nagy’s offense. He’s never eclipsed 30 catches in a season and he only has one career receiving touchdown.
But the Birds already have a few back who have proven they can catch balls out of the backfield when called upon. What they needed was a back who can consistently run between the tackles and get short yardage plays, and they have that in Howard.
The Birds are also getting Howard at a relatively cheap price. His cap hit for the 2019 season is only $2 million.
Howie’s been busy restructuring contracts all offseason in order to free up as much space as possible. I wouldn’t be surprised if he opted to sign Howard to a long-term deal before the start of the season, or maybe even during the season if he’s performing at a high level.
Howard’s currently heading into the final year of his rookie deal and will likely see a big pay day if he hits the open market next offseason. If Howie wants to retain him for a reasonable price, signing him before or during this upcoming season might be his best bet.