The Philadelphia Eagles could be an ideal landing spot for a former 20-touchdown running back.
As written by Bleacher Report’s David Kenyon, the Eagles are one of three franchises he lists as “teams to watch” in the running for Los Angeles Chargers running back Austin Ekeler. Ekeler will enter free agency after spending all seven seasons of his NFL career in Los Angeles.
Kenyon also mentions the Eagles’ rival, the Dallas Cowboys, along with the Chicago Bears as potential landing spots for the 28-year-old running back.
“Dallas, for instance, may offer $7-8 million per year to make a splash,” writes Kenyon. “Philly is a great fit, although likely on a one-year offer. Or, perhaps the Chicago Bears will offer more playing time and a longer-term contract with less money and a tougher path to the postseason. Ekeler will be in demand, but his decision is nuanced.”
Eagles’ D’Andre Swift Could Walk in Free Agency
The Eagles as a potential landing spot makes sense for two reasons — their starting running back, D’Andre Swift, will be a free agent this offseason and only one of the team’s running backs (Kenneth Gainwell) is under contract for next season.
Philadelphia could very well lose Swift to free agency after his Pro Bowl year. The 24-year-old just completed a career season that saw him run for 1,049 yards, ranking fifth in the NFL in rushing.
According to Spotrac, Swift’s market value is at a projected $6.7 million per season across four years at a total of slightly more than $27.1 million.
By comparison, Ekeler’s market value is projected to be $7.4 million per season across three years at a total of slightly more than $22.3 million.
Both players are similar in that they possess dual-threat traits. However, they differ in a few major areas: age, recent production and overall resume.
Ekeler is four years older than Swift, which means he has a lot more wear-and-tear than the current Eagles starting running back. In fact, Ekeler has the 11th-most touches of any running back since the 2017 season.
Furthermore, Ekeler is coming off of the least-efficient season of his career, running for 3.5 yards per carry while gaining just 628 yards and five touchdowns with 51 receptions and 436 receiving yards. That’s a year after he ran for 915 yards on 4.5 yards per carry with 13 touchdowns to go along with 107 receptions for 722 receiving yards and five receiving touchdowns.
As a result of his production during the 2022 season, Ekeler was named the 21st-best player on the NFL’s annual Top 100 Players list.
Why Austin Ekeler’s Production Declined During 2023 Season
Part of the reason for Ekeler’s decline — outside of a lesser role in the Chargers’ offense — may have to do with incentives. Following the 2022 season, Ekeler wished to discuss a contract extension, only for Los Angeles to balk at the idea.
The two sides eventually reached a deal in May that saw $1.75 million in potential incentives added to the new contract as follows, via Kevin Patra of NFL.com:
“Ekeler can receive up to $1 million for total yards (tiers from 1,125 to 1,639), up to $600,000 for touchdowns (tiers from 10 to 16) and another $150,000 for a Pro Bowl selection in 2023,” wrote Patra in May of 2023.
However, Ekeler didn’t reach any one of those incentives.
The fractured relationship between both sides likely played a major role in Ekeler’s statistical decline. Ekeler led the league in total touchdowns scored during the 2021 and 2022 seasons, totaling 20 touchdowns during the 2021 season alone.
Due to Ekeler’s older age and his statistical decline during the 2023 season, other running backs will likely be in demand before the Chargers veteran.
However, a change of scenery with a Super Bowl contender — such as the Eagles — could be exactly what Ekeler needs to revive his career. When factoring in that Philadelphia likes to involve Gainwell in dual-back committee system, the strategy could help keep Ekeler fresh as he enters his age-29 season.
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