One of the least talked about storylines heading into this offseason for the Eagles is the status of running back Miles Sanders, who’s entering a contract year in 2022.
The 24-year-old back helped lead the No. 1 rushing attack in football last season, finishing second on the team in rushing with 754 rushing yards with an average of 5.5 yards per carry, the highest average of his career. While no one would argue with Sanders’ ability, his durability has been a question mark his entire career. He’s yet to start 16 games in a season and he missed significant time over the past two years with various injuries.
The Eagles rushing attack barely missed a beat this year when Sanders was out. During the four games Sanders missed with injury, the Eagles averaged 186.5 rushing yards per game. What the team did miss, however, was Sanders’ big play ability. On the year, Sanders totaled 20 explosive runs (runs of ten yards or more), while the rest of the running back room had 23 combined.
Despite being a home run hitter, Sanders’ explosiveness didn’t result in any touchdowns for himself, as the running back failed to find the end zone at all in 2021. The same shortcomings that plagued him during his rookie season, such as ball carrier vision, still hurt him entering year four.
So that brings us to the question of the day: How likely is a Miles Sanders trade this offseason?
Considering how the Eagles have treated most of their running backs in recent history, it’s probably more likely than most fans think. The last time the Eagles handed out big money to a running back was back in 2012 when they inked LeSean McCoy to a five-year, $45 million extension. A contract that he didn’t even see through in Philly thanks to Chip Kelly.
Since then, Howie Roseman has done a nice job filtering in running back talent on a year-to-year basis without paying a steep price for any of them. We’ve seen what large running back contracts can do to an organization. Of the top-5 highest paid backs in football — Christian McCaffrey, Alvin Kamara, Ezekiel Elliot, Dalvin Cook, and Derrick Henry — only two of their teams made the postseason. In the case of Zeke, his offense functioned better when they split carries between himself and Tony Pollard. The only true workhorse of the group is Henry, who is by all accounts an outlier from the norm.
Sanders won’t demand top-5 money, but top-10? Maybe. Saquon Barkley is the tenth highest paid back in yearly average, making $7.8M annually. There could be a team out there who sees Sanders as a top-10 back and would be willing to pay him accordingly. Unfortunately, the Eagles probably won’t be one of those teams.
If the Eagles aren’t willing to give Sanders a hefty pay day, it would make sense to shop him this offseason. Despite his durability issues, his value should still be relatively high — for a running back at least. If Howie can get a third-round pick for Sanders, he’d do that in a heart beat. Though it would most likely be more like a fourth or a fifth.
As the old saying goes, “it’s better to move on from a player one year too early than one year too late.” If Sanders sticks around for another year, the Eagles could lose him for nothing next offseason. His production could be replaced with another rookie back this year, or with the development of Kenny Gainwell in year two. Eagles history will tell us this is the most likely outcome, we’ll just have to see how highly Howie values his former second-round pick.