Eagles Extend Sproles Through 2017
PHILADELPHIA (973espn.com) - Darren Sproles spent most of his offseason in San Diego, returning east only when he had to for the team's mandatory minicamp in June.
For the most part the spin was that the 33-year-old Sproles wanted to spend more time with his family at the expense of the voluntary offseason work but there were also whispers that the veteran back was unhappy with his lame-duck status in that 2016 was set to be the last year under his contract.
That was rectified Friday when Philadelphia announced a one-year extension with the dynamic back and punt returner, who was originally acquired by the Eagles in a 2014 offseason trade with the New Orleans Saints and has been named to the Pro Bowl as a return specialist in his first two seasons with the team.
"Being one of the oldest guys, to know you're going to be here a little bit longer, that's a good feeling," Sproles said.
Since arriving in the City of Brotherly Love, Sproles has rushed for 646 yards and nine touchdowns on just 140 carries (4.6 avg.), added 95 receptions for 775 yards and a score as a receiver out of the backfield, and has returned 77 punts for 952 yards (12.4 avg.) and four TDs, which is tied with former Eagles receiver DeSean Jackson for the most punt return touchdowns in franchise history.
Sproles, meanwhile, was handling the first-team work at running back during the team's first full-scale practice on Thursday as projected starter Ryan Mathews started camp on the non-football injury list after tweaking his ankle while working out on his own last week.
At just 5-foot-6 and 200 pounds Sproles remains a sub-package player but he is also the most difficult matchup for opposing defensive coordinators that the Eagles have.
Last season, Sproles appeared in all 16 games and led the NFL in both punt return yards (446) and punt return touchdowns (two), while finishing second in the league in punt return average (11.7).
In 2014, his first season with the Eagles, Sproles was named second-team All-Proand earned his first trip to the Pro Bowl after setting single-season career highs in punt return yards (506), punt return average (13.0) and punt return touchdowns (two). That year, his punt return yards and average led the NFL, while his two punt return touchdowns were tied for the league lead.
Originally selected by the San Diego Chargers in the fourth round of the 2005 NFL Draft, Sproles has enjoyed an 11-year playing career and currently ranks 11th all-time in NFL history with 17,903 all-purpose yards. With 266 yards, Sproles will move ahead of ex-Eagles Herschel Walker to claim sole possession of 10th place on the all-time list.
-John McMullen covers the Eagles and the NFL for 973espn.com. You can reach him at email@example.com or on Twitter @JFMcMullen