At age 36, Eagles’ running back and return specialist Darren Sproles will retire following the completion of the 2019 season as the Philadelphia Eagles official Twitter page broke the news this morning through a tweet.
— Philadelphia Eagles (@Eagles) December 21, 2019
The 5’6″, 190lb athlete hasn’t had an ideal final season. Sproles has only been active for six of 14 games thus far and has had his usage consistently lower than normal. The shifty back hasn’t seen a higher usage than 36% of offensive snaps in any game this year.
While it has been a less than ideal finish to his spectacular career, the future Hall-of-Famer has much to be proud of. Darren Sproles began his 15-year career in 2005 when he was originally selected by the San Diego Chargers in the fourth round (130th overall) of the NFL Draft.
At the beginning of his career, he would sit behind Hall-of-Fame running back Ladanian Tomlinson and future all-pro running back Michael Turner on offense and was primarily used as a special teams weapon.
After establishing himself as a valuable, versatile weapon in San Diego, he tested the open market. It didn’t take long for Sproles to find a new home, as the New Orleans Saints would eventually scoop the running back. On July 29th, 2011, he signed a four-year contract worth $14 million to team up Drew Brees.
He would only miss four games over his three seasons in New Orleans. He had his share of success with the Saints; he had career-highs in rushing yards per attempt, rushing yards per game, receiving yards per game, and receptions per game with the team. Sproles also averaged 26.1 yards per kick return, another career-high.
During his stint with the Saints, Sproles also broke the NFL single-season record for all-purpose yards with 2,696 total yards in 2011.
In 2014, Sproles would eventually be acquired by the Philadelphia Eagles in exchange for a fifth-round draft pick. Quarterback Drew Brees didn’t seem too happy after seeing the team had traded away Sproles, saying:
“You only see a Darren Sproles type of player come around once in your career.”
-Saints’ QB Drew Brees
The signing paid off for Philadelphia as Sproles thrived as their punt returner for the next three seasons. He had a career-high 13.0 yards per return in his debut season with the Birds and was even elected to his first Pro Bowl.
He would continue his success in the midnight green by making the Pro Bowl the next two seasons as a return specialist. Sadly, he would have an injury-riddled season during the Eagles’ miraculous 2017 Super Bowl run.
Despite not being able to contribute towards the Super Bowl championship as much as he would have liked, Sproles should be proud of all of his accomplishments.
He will exit the NFL as fifth of all-time in all-purpose yards, next to names such as Jerry Rice, Walter Payton, and Emmitt Smith.
At 5-foot-6, Darren Sproles finished his career at No. 5 on the NFL's all-time list for all-purpose yards (19,696) ? pic.twitter.com/mht9q1Qp23
— NFL on ESPN (@ESPNNFL) December 21, 2019
Congratulations on a wonderful career, Darren!
Photo: 4thandjawn.com All statistics via ProFootballReference.com unless stated otherwise