One punch followed by an uncontrollable display of emotion made LeGarrette Blount into one of the best bargains in NFL history. Even now, after Blount has proved his worth over and over again during his first seven seasons in the NFL, the Eagles got one of the best running backs in football for a ridiculously low price a couple of weeks ago.
Blount's energy and enthusiasm for the game were on display last week when the Eagles held their first offseason practices at the NoveCare Complex and it will be again Tuesday when those workouts resume. You could see that he is an intense man even in practice, and that left running backs coach Duce Staley visibly excited.
"I was having fun," Blount said. "Obviously we're out here to work. We take it seriously. There is nothing wrong with having a little fun along the way. These are the guys you're going to be working with. You have to get comfortable with them and you have to learn their personality."
Blount's personality is exactly what the Eagles need. Mess with him or one of his teammates and he will not back down even if you're the biggest bully on the field. My favorite statistic from Blount's most recent season was not his 18 touchdowns or his 1,161 yards rushing. I liked his $18,231 fine for ripping off Ndamukong Suh's helmet after being shoved by the 307-pound Miami Dolphins defensive tackle.
He also paid a $9,115 fine earlier in the season for shoving Cincinnati Bengals linebacker Vontaze Burfict, who is known as one of the dirtiest players in the NFL.
The Eagles needed a player with Blount's edginess.
Remarkably, he remained on the free-agent market for more than two months even after helping the Patriots win the Super Bowl for the second time in four years.
All sorts of warnings went up about Blount.
He can't play for anybody except Bill Belichick and the Patriots.
He's 30 years old.
He rushed for only 3.9 yards per carry last season.
He was shut down in the postseason.
Even if every single warning is true, what the Eagles gave to get Blount was worth it to find out. NFL Media reported that the one-year contract could be worth up to $2.8 million after incentives, but his base salary is $1.25 million, according to sportrac.com.
That a guy who just scored 18 touchdowns a year ago could be had for that little says a lot about how messed up the NFL system is for paying players.
Consider this: Blount, according to sportrac.com, made a total of $6.547 million during the first seven seasons of his career, which is more than $20 million less than Carson Wentz received in his first contract with the Eagles. Sure that's comparing apples to oranges because Wentz was the second overall draft pick last year and plays the game's most important position. Blount is a running back who went undrafted in 2010 because of that punch he threw after the first game of his senior season at the University of Oregon.
Still, it's unfair that one punch after a difficult loss to Boise State cost Blount so much. You could also argue that the punch was provoked by an unsportsmanlike comment from a Boise State player, but that does not change the fact that Blount was wrong for what he did. It did not help that the 2009 incident at Oregon was caught on tape and that he went into an uncontrollable rage afterward, but he did apologize and his actions were not nearly as bad as what some players in the most recent draft did off the field.
The entire NFL whiffed when Blount went undrafted.
Let's compare apples to apples.
A total of 15 running backs were drafted in 2010, including three - C.J. Spiller by Buffalo, Ryan Mathews by San Diego and Jahvid Best by Detroit - in the first round. Blount has more rushing yards and more yards from scrimmage than all of them except Mathews, who has made $26.6 million in his career. Blount's 50 touchdowns are more than every player in the 2010 draft except first-round receivers Dez Bryant and Demaryius Thomas.
Seven of the 16 running backs drafted in 2010 had still made more money than Blount before his latest contract with the Eagles. Blount has never been paid more than $1.85 million in a single season.
The 245-pound back insists he is blessed and not bitter. He would not trade his two Super Bowl rings with the Patriots for the cash others have received.
"It is what it is," he said. "Money is money. You try to maximize your earning potential while you're in this league. It could always be worse. I could have not had a job at all. I could have not been playing football. I could have been working somewhere else. I always look at it as a blessing, but I know you do have to maximize your earning potential because this isn't a 30-year career. These careers are pretty short-lived, so I feel blessed that I've played seven years and I'm going into my eighth. My career has been good. I've got two Super Bowl rings, so it couldn't be better."
It could get better. In fact, the Eagles are hoping it does. Even if it does not, it was still worth the price they paid to find out.