Darren Sproles hints that contract extension will be his last deal
Darren Sproles signed a one-year contract extension with the Eagles on Friday morning, and the two-time Pro Bowler hinted that it could be the final deal he signs in the NFL.
Sproles, 33, received $4.5 million for the additional year, according to a league source. It was the second contract extension Sproles signed with the team since they traded him for in 2014, and he reached the Pro Bowl as a return specialist in his two seasons with the team. He will be three months shy of his 35th birthday when the deal expires.
"When I'm done playing, I'm going to be an Eagle," Sproles said of his contract. "Means a lot."
Asked how many productive seasons he has left, Sproles answered two.
"This year and next year," he said.
The answer seemed to indicate that is how long Sproles plans to play. He did not confirm he would retire at the end of the contract. "We're going to see," he said.
But he spoke like someone who knows his career is winding down. Sproles said he wanted to stay in Philadelphia, and he's excited about his role in this offense.
"They still think I got some tread on my tires," Sproles said.
Hearing coach Doug Pederson and Howie Roseman speak, Sproles' statement proved accurate. Neither the coach nor the executive seemed concerned with Sproles' age, instead focusing on the type of player Sproles is and the respect he's earned from his teammates.
"When you talk about leadership, work ethic, character, production ... he has everything that we want to be," Roseman said. "He's so important to this on and off the field. It's a no-brainer from our perspective."
Sproles said the sides had been discussing a deal for "a while," but he reiterated that his absence from part of the offseason program was not related to a contract dispute. Both Sproles and the team said he missed the time because of family obligations.
In his two years in Philadelphia, Sproles averaged 4.6 yards per carry and 8.2 yards per reception, along with 12.4 yards per punt return. His four punt-return touchdowns are tied for the most in Eagles history. Sproles led the NFL in punt-return yards and punt-return touchdowns last season.
"Tremendous quickness, acceleration," Roseman said. "He's a mismatch in the passing game. Every time he's back on punt returns, you're thinking a big play can happen. And again his work ethic and the presence he has in our locker room. You talk to any of our players, they know when we go to Darren what it signifies."
Sproles ranks 11th in NFL history with 17,903 all-purpose yards, and he has the most all-purpose yards in the NFL since 2007. However, his offensive production slipped since coming to Philadelphia, although could be related to his reduced workload.
Sproles wanted to be more involved in the offense last season, and he could see a greater role this year _ especially in the passing game, in which Sproles averaged 47.5 catches during the last two years after averaging 77.3 catches in three seasons with New Orleans.
"We have a couple things up our sleeve," Sproles said. "I think my role will be a little different."
The Eagles are expected to use both Ryan Mathews and Sproles as their top running backs this season. The depth chart is thin behind them. Pederson said he likes playing with two running backs in some formations, which could help Sproles get more playing time.
"I think he's a freakish athlete," Pederson said. "Going into it right now, I'm not going to limit him. I want to see how much I can give him and see how much he can handle. Then we'll kind of go from there."
Roseman said the Eagles used Frank Gore and Matt Forte as contract comparisons when negotiating with Sproles. The financial commitment is formidable for a running back of any age but certainly for a player who is 33 and has not been a featured running back.
Sproles interpreted the contract as evidence of how much the Eagles value him, and it is why he wanted to stay in Philadelphia.
"It says a lot because I'm 33 years old," Sproles said. "They ended up giving me an extra year. It says a lot."