ROB MAADDI, AP Pro Football Writer
Chip Kelly got another versatile playmaker for his offense.
The Philadelphia Eagles acquired running back Darren Sproles from the New Orleans Saints for a fifth-round draft pick on Tuesday. The Eagles also agreed on a two-year contract with former Dolphins cornerback Nolan Carroll.
“Darren Sproles is an unbelievable offensive weapon,” Kelly said. “He can do it all: run, catch, plus he’s a proven winner. And on top of that, he can bring all of those dynamic skills to the return game as well. There is no question we were all excited once we found out we were going to be able to trade for him.”
The 30-year-old Sproles is coming off one of his least productive seasons. He ranked in the bottom five among punt returners with a 6.7 yards per return average and was third worst among kick returners with an average of 21.3.
Sproles’ offensive numbers also went down for the third straight year. He had 71 catches for 604 yards and two touchdowns and ran for 220 yards and two scores.
He joins an up-tempo offense that was quite dynamic in Kelly’s first season in Philadelphia. The Eagles set team records for points (442), total net yards (6,676), touchdowns (53), and gross yards passing (4,406). All-Pro running back LeSean McCoy had a franchise-best 1,607 yards rushing and 2,146 yards from scrimmage. Pro Bowl MVP Nick Foles had the third-highest passer rating (119.2) in league history.
“Darren is a player that we have admired for many years,” Eagles general manager Howie Roseman said. “He’s a proven performer at a high level. He’s such a dangerous back and he’s a great piece to add to our offense and to our special teams. We spent a considerable time in order to try to make this happen and we were very happy to get a deal done with New Orleans.”
Sproles played his first five seasons in San Diego and last three with the Saints. He has run for 2,221 yards and 11 TDs and caught 378 passes for 3,381 yards and 27 TDs. Since 2007, Sproles leads the NFL with 13,806 all-purpose yards and ranks first among running backs in receptions (375), yards receiving (3,371) and TD catches. He also has five return touchdowns on punts (three) and kickoffs (two).
The Saints get the second of Philadelphia’s two fifth-round picks in May. The Eagles acquired that pick from the Patriots in a trade for defensive tackle Isaac Sopoaga last October.
New Orleans beat the Eagles in Philadelphia in a first-round playoff game in January. The Saints have been successful with several fifth-round picks in recent years: wide receiver Kenny Stills, cornerback Corey White, 2012 Pro Bowl punter Thomas Morstead, two-time Pro Bowl left guard Carl Nicks, and defensive end Rob Ninkovich. Whose success has come with New England.
Carroll is the fourth free agent signed by the Eagles since Tuesday, joining former Saints safety Malcolm Jenkins and special teams standouts Chris Maragos and Bryan Braman. Carroll had three interceptions and two sacks in 12 starts last season.
Cary Williams and Bradley Fletcher were Philadelphia’s starting cornerbacks in 2013 and Brandon Boykin started in the slot. The Eagles finished last in pass defense.
“Nolan Carroll brings good experience to our team,” Kelly said. “He’s been a starter in Miami. He’s a good athlete and he’ll bring good depth to our cornerback position with Cary, Fletch and Brandon. His skill set fits what we are trying to do on defense and special teams.”
Carroll allowed just 43 receptions in 451 coverage snaps last year, according to Pro Football Focus. Opposing quarterbacks had a passer rating of only 65.0 when targeting him.
“Nolan is a guy we have studied for a while and the thing you see is his size, speed and press ability,” Roseman said. “He will add depth to a cornerback group we already feel good about. You can never have enough big, long corners on a football team. He’s also a player that has proven to be a productive gunner on special teams.”
The 27-year-old Carroll had 135 tackles, five interceptions, 22 passes defended and three sacks in four seasons in Miami.
Before NFL free agency opened, the Eagles re-signed wide receivers Riley Cooper and Jeremy Maclin and gave contract extensions to All-Pro left tackle Jason Peters and center Jason Kelce. They also re-signed punter Donnie Jones this week.
AP sports writer Brett Martel contributed to this report
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