Eagles have to give Miles Sanders a new contract

·4 min read

Why the Eagles have to re-sign Miles Sanders originally appeared on NBC Sports Philadelphia

We’ve all been led to believe running backs are interchangeable.

Sign some guy, any guy, run him into the ground, squeeze all the life out of him, use him up, then move on to the next guy.

That’s why only 12 running backs have been drafted in the first round in the last 10 years and why only 13 have been drafted with a top-10 pick in the last 20 years. It’s why running backs are the lowest-paid players in the NFL – below even kickers.

There are only nine regular running backs playing this year for the same team they were with just four years ago.

It’s a violent position where careers are short, injuries are frequent and consistency is rare.

Ten different wide receivers had 1,000 yards in both 2020 and 2021. Only three running backs did.

There’s a reason running backs don’t get big contracts. Today’s all-pro is tomorrow’s has-been.

All that said, the Eagles need to buck conventional wisdom and re-sign Miles Sanders.

We talk so much about Jalen Hurts and A.J. Brown and DeVonta Smith and Dallas Goedert, but Sanders has quietly built up quite a body of work the last few years – when he’s been healthy – and the player we saw in the opener Sunday is a player the Eagles need to keep.

The Eagles don’t win that game without the dynamic playmaking Sanders provides.

I know all about the injuries. I know all about the missed games. But Sanders is too talented, too explosive, too important to this team to just move on, let him hit free agency and then try to replace him.

I thought Sunday was one of the best games of his life. He’s had more yards a few times, but he was tough, he was physical, he was decisive and he was clutch.

That 24-yarder to virtually seal the win just before the two-minute warning was a masterful piece of running. He was stuffed initially, kept his legs moving, broke out of the pile and then raced through open field out near midfield for a new set of downs.

Sanders finished with 96 yards on just 13 carries and a gaudy 7.4 average, and he also caught a couple passes to get over 100 scrimmage yards.

His 5.1 career average is tied for 7th-highest in history among running backs with at least 500 carries. He moved ahead of Gale Sayers Sunday.

Sanders has never been run into the ground by either Doug Pederson or Nick Sirianni, and that – along with a light workload at Penn State – have left him as electrifying a runner as ever now in his fourth year.  His 5.5 average since 2020 is 2nd-highest in the league behind Nick Chubb.

And this is maybe the most important thing about Sanders: He almost never has a bad game.

He’s gotten 12 carries 21 times in his career and averaged 4.0 yards per carry all but four times.

He’s steadily reduced the number of negative runs by becoming a more decisive runner and a tougher inside runner. That’s huge because he danced too much as a young back.

On third down since 2020, he’s averaging 6.3 yards per carry. Only one running back with at least 24 3rd-down carries since 2019 has a higher 3rd-down average, and that’s D’Andre Swift (thanks, Eagles defense!).

And this is huge too: Yeah, he’s been banged up. But since he entered the league, only 10 backs have started more games than Sanders. It’s the reality of the position that missing games is common. And he hasn’t missed more than three games in a row.

If Sanders rushes for 750 yards and a 4.6 average this year – and I like his odds – he’ll join Jim Brown, Chubb and Sayers as only the fourth player in NFL history to open his career with four straight seasons of 750 yards and a 4.6 average.

Add it all up and this is a guy the Eagles can’t lose. Even though he’s a running back.

It’s clear that even with upgraded weapons in the passing game, Shane Steichen wants to run the ball a lot. Since he became play caller, the Eagles have run the football more than any other team. And as much as I value Kenny Gainwell and Boston Scott as key pieces on this offense, they’re not equipped to be The Guy. Not like Sanders.

So the Eagles could let Sanders walk and take their chances with a free agent or mid-round draft pick or maybe Gainwell, and maybe they’d be fine.

Or they can sign Sanders to a new deal and not worry about replacing him.

I would think something in the $6 million per year range would do it, and that’s easily doable for Howie Roseman.

He’s too talented, too consistent, too productive to just let him walk.