Eagles Stay or Go 2024: Moving on from D’Andre Swift? originally appeared on NBC Sports Philadelphia
Reuben Frank and Dave Zangaro bring back Stay or Go in 2024, trying to figure out the futures of every Eagles player on the roster.
We already looked at quarterback.
Up today: Running back
Roob: Gainwell is the only running back under contract with NFL experience, and his ability, versatility and modest 2024 $1.13 million cap hit, courtesy of his 5th-round rookie contract, make him a lock to be here in 2024. Nick Sirianni really likes Gainwell, who had a strong second half after a slow start this past year. He’s got 1,500 scrimmage yards and 12 touchdowns in limited playing time the last three seasons – about 5.9 touches per game. He’ll never be THE guy, but he can be a pretty valuable piece.
Dave: As a fifth-round pick in 2021, Gainwell is entering the fourth and final year of his rookie contract and has a palatable contract in 2024. It’s not like Gainwell has grown into a feature back during the first three years of his NFL career but he has been a valuable member of the Eagles’ backfield. He had another productive year in 2023 with 364 rushing yards and 183 receiving yards. The Eagles still need to find another back to be their lead guy next season but there’s no reason they shouldn’t keep Gainwell around for one more season.
Roob: Nichols had a huge 2021 season for Central Michigan – more than 1,800 rushing yards and 2,200 scrimmage yards, both leading all Bowl Subdivision RBs. That season put him on the map, and he’s an interesting guy. He’s a big dude at 5-11, 220, and should be fun to watch in training camp, kind of like a physical Trey Sermon inside power back type of dude. But if he’s here it’ll be on the practice squad.
Dave: The Eagles didn’t sign Nichols to their practice squad until October so we didn’t get to see him in training camp. The Packers actually drafted Nichols in the seventh round but he was waived/injured at final cuts. Nichols (5-10, 220) had monster 2021 season at Central Michigan, rushing for over 1,800 yards and 16 touchdowns but dealt with injuries in 2022. I’m looking forward to watching him in the preseason because he’s a big and powerful runner but he would really need to wow to earn a roster spot and I don’t see that happening.
Roob: The Eagles mothballed Penny all year and I guess they didn’t like what they saw in training camp but there was no benefit in releasing him, so they kept him around just in case they had RB injuries and needed an emergency back. I’ll tell you what, I expected a whole lot more from Penny than 11 carries for 33 yards. Penny is 28 and maybe he’ll get another shot somewhere, but it won’t be here.
Dave: It was pretty exciting when the Eagles signed Penny to a one-year contract last offseason. It was definitely worth the low-risk, high-reward deal he signed. But we never got to see any of that reward. Penny was one a great NFL running back in limited action but he’s 28 now and the Eagles clearly didn’t see that explosion during training camp. It had to be a disappointing season for Penny, sitting on the bench, but he handled it well. Maybe he’ll get a chance to go elsewhere and prove he can still play but it’s hard to imagine him getting or wanting that chance in Philly.
Roob: The long-time Eagle backup was really underutilized this year, with just 24 offensive touches after averaging about 88 the last four years. I always liked Scott. He produces whenever he gets a chance. He just didn’t get very many this year. After scoring 18 touchdowns from 2019 through 2022 he didn’t score any this year. With kickoff returns becoming obsolete, I’m not sure what role Scott could have around here. And if I were him I might want to go to a team that might give me a little bit more of an opportunity to get on the field on offense. I’m a big Boston Scott fan and he’s been a really good Eagle for a long time. I just don’t see where he fits in anymore.
Dave: Scott has been on the Eagles’ roster than just about anyone. Last offseason, Scott was a restricted free agent but the Eagles didn’t tender him, instead waiting to sign him to a one-year deal. He was the third guy on the depth chart behind D’Andre Swift and Gainwell and those guys stayed pretty healthy, so Scott’s role was limited. He had just 24 touches all season because of it. Even though the kick return isn’t a huge play anymore, he did have that role as well. This one is a bit of a coin flip to me but I still think Scott is worth keeping around a veteran minimum salary and he’s probably seen as more valuable to the Eagles than any other team.
Roob: I really thought there was a chance Swift could be good enough this year that the Eagles would want him back but not so good that they couldn’t afford to keep him. But even with the current state of running back contracts, and Miles Sanders’ season certainly won’t help the running back cause, I just don’t think it’s in the cards. I feel like Swift proved himself last year with a Pro Bowl season and more than 1,200 scrimmage yards, and my hunch is that he played himself out of Howie Roseman’s price range. Remember, Roseman hasn’t re-signed a running back since LeSean McCoy in 2012. I like Swift and I think he’s capable of much more than what we saw this year. He’s a fun player and it would be interesting to see him in a real offense. But I also feel like the Eagles believe with their offensive line they can find equivalent talent and production at a much lower price. They’re probably right.
Dave: We all know the Eagles’ history with running backs and how they haven’t given out a major contract to one since LeSean McCoy in 2012. I don’t think Swift will be the guy to change that but it’s also worth noting that a big contract might just not be out there at all for Swift. That seems weird to say after he had his first 1,000-yard season and was named to the Pro Bowl. But the running back position has been devalued in recent seasons and Miles Sanders probably didn’t help that by struggling in 2023 after getting a solid deal with the Panthers. There might be a chance that Swift tests the open market and doesn’t find the type of multi-year extension he wants. In that case, the door should be open to a return for Philly. If he has to take a cheap one-year deal, he might as well do it with the Eagles. But ultimately I think he’ll get a big enough contract that the Eagles won’t want to match and will let him walk after a year back in his hometown.
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Daniel Miller is a sports fanatic who lives and breathes athletics. His coverage spans from major league championships to local sports events, delivering up-to-the-minute updates and in-depth analysis for sports enthusiasts.