About a year and a half ago major tensions formed between the Miami Dolphins and running back Jay Ajayi. The Eagles decided to make their move. Offering just a measly fourth-round pick, the Eagles snatched up the young star. With his assistance in the backfield, the birds were able to capture their first ring. Ajayi quickly blossomed as the premier back in Philadelphia in his first season with the team but suffered a torn ACL in his second. Now we’re in the position today, wondering whether Ajayi is worth breaking the bank for.
There’s no denying that Eagles’ fans will be forever grateful for Ajayi’s services. He was one of the key pieces on that Super Bowl-winning roster. At this point, Philadelphia doesn’t seem to need to keep him to maintain a solid backfield. The 2018-19 season provided Eagles’ fans with a glimpse of the team not boasting “Jay Train”. By the end of the season, when the backfield really caught its stride, we saw that he wasn’t really necessary. The combination of a solid backfield and a passing game that can cover the running games weaknesses, Ajayi may not be making a return to the team in 2019.
2018 Pleasant Surprises in the Running Back Room
After a shaky start, the crippled Eagles’ backfield came into its own by season’s end and showed its potential. Without Jay Ajayi and 2017 standout Corey Clement for much of the season, the backfield still looked effective. Undrafted rookie Josh Adams showed potential, and third-year back Wendell Smallwood, going very much under the radar, looked phenomenal in December and January. With those two as well as Clement and ageless wonder Darren Sproles back in the fold for 2019, Ajayi’s services may become expendable.
Now with the loss of Ajayi, this may open the Eagles up to using their entire stable of running backs. We’ve seen this system work before–the New England Patriots have been especially successful using this system, giving light to the positives it presents. With a backfield as versatile as the Eagles’, using all the talent available would be a great strategy.
But let’s Not Forget About the Passing Game
The Eagles have been amidst maybe the biggest debate of the NFL offseason so far. Should they keep and potentially hand the reins to Super Bowl MVP Nick Foles? Do the Eagles shop him (or let him walk) in favor of franchise quarterback Carson Wentz? Honestly, it’s a great position to be in. These are two of the best quarterbacks of the last two seasons, so the Eagles can be confident with either under center for the next few years.
On top of the leagues best quarterback situation is an array of weapons. Stars Alshon Jeffery and Zach Ertz and talented youngsters Nelson Agholor and Dallas Goedert. When together and healthy, this unit is scary. They provide mismatches all over the field. Even without a running game, this group can operate at a high level. It gives the team lots of leeway when it comes to finding a premier running back. Because of that, they don’t have to break the bank for Ajayi.
So Should the Eagles Pay the Man
In my expert opinion, it’s probably not ideal. Ajayi is a great back who still has many years left of productivity in the NFL. The Eagles with their limited cap room, that productivity probably won’t come in midnight green. Again, Ajayi has been great while a part of the organization and the fans will be forever grateful for his role on that Super Bowl roster. In an offseason where the Eagles will be looking to make the changes needed to become world champs once again, Ajayi will not be a top priority. He will most likely not be returning to the team come August.