PHILADELPHIA – The Eagles brought back another familiar face just weeks before the 2021 NFL Draft when they agreed to terms on a one-year contract with running back Jordan Howard on Wednesday.
The deal’s value isn’t known, but it cannot be any less than the veteran minimum of $1.075 million, of which $850,000 counts against the salary cap.
Earlier in free agency, the Eagles brought back defensive tackle Hassan Ridgeway.
Howard, still just 26, finished last year with the Eagles but spend the last several weeks on the free-agent market.
Two years ago, after the Eagles got him a trade from the Chicago Bears, Howard was the perfect complement for Miles Sanders, who was then a rookie. He left in free agency, however, signing a two-year deal worth $9.75 million.
Once in Miami, however, Howard could not find a role and was used sparingly, even finding himself inactive for two games. He was released in November and the Eagles picked him up, adding him to their practice squad.
He made it into three games, getting seven carries for 27 yards.
Howard is a touchdown maker, with 34 of them in 64 career games. He’s also averaged 4.2 yards per carry in his career and rarely goes down on first contact.
Sanders credited Howard for helping him as a rookie on and off the field.
“I love seeing guys that I started this with (as a rookie),” said Sanders, after the Eagles claimed him last year. “He was there the whole (rookie) year helping me out getting me better.
“(He is) a real physical downhill runner. I was getting tips and advice from him (in 2019) as far as pass pro and being disciplined on my inside zones and outside zones. He got me right with that.”
Howard and Sanders provided some thunder and lightning to the Eagles’ backfield in 2019.
Howard had 525 yards and six rushing touchdowns with 10 catches for 69 yards and another TD that full year together. His seven total touchdowns led the Eagles that season despite missing the final six games with a shoulder injury.
He and Sanders were on the field together for a win in Buffalo when Philadelphia ran the ball 41 times, with Howard carrying the ball 23 times for 93 yards and Sanders three times for 74 yards, including a 65-yard TD burst.
Signing him could take the Eagles out of the running back market early in the draft, perhaps altogether. They now have six running backs on the roster.
In addition to Sanders and Howard, they have Boston Scott, Jason Huntley, Elijah Holyfield, and Adrian Killins.
Only Sanders seems like a long-term solution, however, but this will be the third year of his four-year rookie contract, so the Eagles will need to make a decision on him within the next couple of years, if not sooner rather than later.
Adding another running back at some point in the draft, even early on, the way Sirianni’s former team, the Colts, did when they drafted Jonathan Taylor in the second round, 41st overall, could influence GM Howie Roseman's decision to perhaps find one in this draft who could help stabilize the backfield for a few seasons.
Ed Kracz is the publisher of SI.com’s EagleMaven. Check out the latest Eagles news at www.SI.com/NFL/Eagles and please follow him on Twitter: @kracze.