The Chicago Bears are reportedly discussing a Jordan Howard trade with multiple teams. The Eagles have been linked to Howard before and are in need of an upgrade at the running back position. With that being said, would it make sense for the Eagles to trade for Howard?

Under a new offensive scheme with Matt Nagy at head coach, Howard’s usage and effectiveness in the Bears offense took a bit of a dip in 2018. After being drafted in 2016, Howard averaged 264 carries in his first two seasons and ran for an average of 1,217.5 yards per season (and 4.6 yards per carry), while also adding 15 rushing touchdowns in that time. In 2018, though, Howard got just 250 carries, taking them for 935 yards (3.7 yards per carry), but still had nine touchdowns. Now, ESPN’s Adam Schefter says the Bears were approached by multiple teams at the NFL Combine about a Howard deal and are still in discussions with those teams.

Along with his dip in usage and effectiveness, Howard is also entering the last season of his rookie contract. Since he wasn’t a first-round pick, Howard doesn’t have a fifth-year option on his deal. However, Howard’s contract is still at a considerably cheap cost of just $2.1 million for 2019.

With that being said, this all has to be taken into consideration when deciding whether the Eagles should pursue a Howard trade or not. There is no official word of whether the Eagles are (or aren’t) one of the teams involved in discussions, but it would make sense for them to have interest.

Last season, the Eagles ended up being without any facet of their running game that made the offense so potent in 2017. LeGarrette Blount, who signed a one-year deal with the Detroit Lions, was no longer around to be the power back, and Jay Ajayi, who was the lightning to Blount’s thunder, suffered a season-ending torn ACL just a few weeks into the season. Along with that, Darren Sproles, who was expected to be the passing down back, missed 11 games in the middle of the season due to a hamstring injury.

Now, the Eagles have just Corey Clement, Wendell Smallwood and Josh Adams under contract at running back for 2019. Clement has shown his potential, most notably in Super Bowl 52, but he is best used in the passing game. Smallwood has been on the brink of being cut for the past few seasons, and Adams usage plummeted after being the teams starting running back after just five games due to fumbling issues.

The Eagles have also been linked to Le’Veon Bell, but his price may be too high and he isn’t the power back the team is looking for, assuming Doug Peterson and the offense still plans to go by committee at the position.

Howard’s struggles in 2018 are a bit concerning, but he still showed potential as a power back. It is important to note that while Howard averaged just 3.7 yards per carry in 2018, Blount averaged just 3.9 yards per carry in 2016 with the Patriots before he signed with the Eagles the following year. Granted, Blount finished with a whopping 18 rushing touchdowns that season, but he was in a much better offense than Howard and had 49 more carries on the season, with a good portion coming near the goal-line. Blount has been a bruising runner for his entire career and had the veteran mindset that the Eagles needed at the time in order to pursue a championship, but Howard has the ability of filling a similar role.

Along with that, Howard has a little more of a presence in the passing game than Blount did. In all three of his seasons with the Bears, Howard has had at least 20 receptions per season out of the backfield, while Blount hasn’t had more than 15 in a season during his career.

It is also worth mentioning that the Eagles were mentioned as a potential trade destination for Howard before the trade deadline in 2018.

The Eagles have opened up a considerable amount of cap space since the start of the offseason, with the team sitting at around $18 million in space. With Howard’s ridiculously-cheap contract, adding him to the team would allow the Eagles to use that money on players at other positions while also filling a need with a proven player. Signing C.J. Mosley or Landon Collins, or even re-signing Ronald Darby are moves the Eagles could make if they are able to allocate their money elsewhere.

With Howard at just 24 years old, he also would have the potential to be the Eagles power running back for years to come if the team could convince him to re-sign. With Howard in place in that role, the Eagles then could use one of their three top-60 picks in the draft to select a running back that could be the lightning to Howard’s thunder, just like what the team once had in Blount and Ajayi. Ajayi returning is another possibility, and the team is reportedly still in contact with him, but the long injury history of Ajayi could stand in the way of a new deal.

What it will likely all come down to is two things: the Bears’ asking price for Howard, and whether the Eagles want to move to using a three-down running back, or if they want to stick to using a committee.

With multiple teams involved, there is a chance a bidding war could take place, and the Eagles probably won’t want to be competing in that nature. The Eagles have five picks in round four or later, so if the price range is anywhere between a fourth-round to sixth-round pick, the Eagles will be able to put in a sufficient offer. If the Bears demand more than that, the Eagles would be smart to pull out of offers considering there is a risk of Howard being a one-year rental.

There can also be the argument made that instead of trading a pick for Howard, the Eagles should just draft a running back instead. That is understandable, but Howard is more of a sure-thing than any of the backs in this years draft considering Howard has three years of NFL experience under his belt. Having as many draft picks as possible is great, but it is also important to have players to rely upon when a team is trying to compete for a Super Bowl.

With the latter decision, Howard should not be a running back that the Eagles plan to use as their workhorse if they were to acquire him. Howard would be best used in a committee and paired with a running back that can compliment his style of running. If Pederson were to prefer using just one main running back in 2019, Howard is not the answer.

There is a lot to consider when it comes down to Howard, but if the price is right and Pederson plans to use Howard in a committee, the Eagles attempting to make a trade for the running back makes complete sense.

Photo: 670 The Score
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