The Carolina Panthers have landed a playmaking running back on the open market.
ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler was the first to report the agreement on Wednesday.
Sanders will be reunited with Duce Staley, the Panthers’ assistant head coach and running backs coach, in Carolina. Sanders, who is coming off a career year with the Eagles, played his first two NFL seasons under Staley in Philadelphia. During that period, the 2019 second-round pick produced 1,685 rushing yards, 706 receiving yards and 12 total touchdowns.
Last season, Sanders — who played college football at Penn State — was one of the top playmakers for the reigning NFC champions. He produced a career-high 1,269 rushing yards and 11 rushing touchdowns.
Along with his connection to Staley, Sanders has a connection to head coach Frank Reich through Eagles head coach Nick Sirianni. Sanders worked under Sirianni — Reich’s first offensive coordinator in Indianapolis — for the past two seasons, so he likely understands the Panthers’ head coach’s shared play-calling philosophy.
Sanders, 25, has been the starting running back for the Eagles for the past four years. However, Sanders had a lighter workload during that stretch as he was used in a heavy rotation. He had a career-high 259 carries last season, which is an average workload for most bell-cow backs. In Carolina, he will continue to be part of a rotation with Chuba Hubbard and Raheem Blackshear.
Sanders is very good in shotgun formation, and he has the shiftiness to make defenders miss. While he has been an inconsistent pass-catcher over the years, his work on third-down should make him an asset for whomever is at quarterback this season.
With Sanders in the mix, it’ll be interesting to see how the Panthers handle the free agency of D’Onta Foreman, who led the team in rushing yards and rushing touchdowns last season. Foreman has yet to agree to terms with another team, and he could still be viewed as a worthwhile complement to Sanders this season.