We could be looking at one of the biggest free agency periods in recent memory if some of the notable names actually hit the open market. Tom Brady, Drew Brees, and Derrick Henry are just a few of the big names set to hit unrestricted free agency when the new league year opens on March 18th. One or more stands a good chance of signing a contract with their current team before then, but there is a chance one or more is taking calls when the tampering period opens on March 16th.
2019 in review
Jordan Howard joined the Philadelphia Eagles via a trade with the Chicago Bears and was set to be the starting early down back for the team. He had a promising start to the season as he averaged 4.4 yards per carry, was on pace for 900 yards, and scored six touchdowns in the first nine games of the year. Unfortunately, any momentum he was able to build with his new team in the first half of the season came to a screeching halt, as he suffered what was reported to be a stinger in Week 9 against his former team, the Chicago Bears.
The injury appeared to be minor at first, but week after week Howard remained on the sidelines. Howard was a stranger to injury up to that point, as he had missed just one game in his first three years in the NFL. Howard went on to miss the remaining 7 games of the season, and failed to return for the playoffs as well. In that time, Howard lost his job as the Eagles starter when rookie running back Miles Sanders burst onto the scene and led the team’s backfield for the remainder of the season.
There are a lot of running backs set to hit the free agency market in March. Among the teams that are most in need of a running back are the Miami Dolphins, who averaged only 72.2 yds/game in the 2019 season. They shipped off stater Kenyan Drake mid-season and due to injuries finished the season with Patrick Laird as their starter. They could use a seasoned veteran for early down work and may find value in Howard’s skill set.
Another possible destination for Howard could be the Los Angeles Chargers, who have both Melvin Gordon and Austin Ekeler becoming free agents this year. The Chargers are unlikely to re-sign Gordon given the holdout drama of last season, but they may choose to keep Ekeler on their squad, as he stepped up admirably for the team last season. As more of a big, bruiser type back, Howard could play a complementary role to Ekeler, who excels as a change of pace back. This would be an interesting landing spot, as there were rumors that the Eagles had been in talks with the Chargers about swapping Howard for Gordon prior to the 2019 trade deadline.
Do the Eagles want to keep him?
Miles Sanders may have taken over as top dog in the Philadelphia backfield, but that doesn’t necessarily mean there is no room to keep Jordan Howard. The Eagles are all too familiar with the importance of having depth at all positions, as their team was one of the hardest hit by the injury bug in 2019. Sanders is unlikely to sustain a full season as a three down back and the Eagles need a solid short yardage back. It may all come down to Howard’s price tag versus prices of other free agent running backs. The Eagles may be looking for a bargain as they will likely turn more of their focus to the wide receiver position, which was a glaring weakness for them this past season. The Eagles must also consider the terms of Howard’s contract, which state that the 6th round pick they traded to the Bears would be come a 5th round pick should the Eagles re-sign Howard prior to 2020 free agency. This may be another barrier to Howard’s return to Philadelphia.
If Howard were to remain on the Eagles, he would likely be a touchdown dependent flex play, as Miles Sanders would be most likely to be the back to target for your fantasy team next year. There is always a chance he ends up on another team such as the Dolphins or the Chargers as a starter, which would make him a more valuable fantasy asset. Howard is unlikely to be a league winner, but there’s strong chance he provides at least RB3/Flex value in all formats next season.
Liam Jenkins of Philly Sports Network outlines why the Eagles may be dissuaded from re-signing Howard due to his contract terms.
Los Angeles Chargers
Travis Wakeman discusses why the Chargers should consider adding Howard to their backfield after all on Bolt Beat.
Bryan Perez of NBC Sports Chicago discusses why the Bears may benefit from bringing Howard back to where it all started for a discounted price.
More trade rumors are likely to develop as the start of free agency approaches and we will update them as they surface.