The New Orleans Saints are reportedly looking to trade running back Darren Sproles, with ESPN’s Adam Schefter reporting Tuesday they’ve gotten “heavy interest” from other teams, so it looks unlikely he’ll simply be released as was originally speculated. Sproles is a unique talent that would improve the backfield situation for a lot of teams, and Albert Breer of NFL Network has specifically mentioned the Minnesota Vikings as a potential landing spot for him.
Should the Vikings have strong interest in Sproles? More importantly, would he be a good fit?
Sproles has a connection to Minnesota’s new coaching staff, since he was with the San Diego Chargers from 2007-2010 during offensive coordinator Norv Turner’s tenure as head coach. From 2008-2010 Sproles emerged as a multi-purpose weapon for the Chargers, averaging 44 receptions for 453 yards per season with 17 total touchdowns (11 receiving, four rushing, one punt return and one kickoff return) in that time. The move to New Orleans clearly agreed with him, as he has at least 71 receptions and over 600 receiving yards in each of the last three seasons.
Vikings’ fans and followers are surely intrigued by the possibilities that having Sproles would present, particularly because Adrian Peterson has clear shortcomings as an all-around back and Toby Gerhart is now in Jacksonville. 2014 is the final year of Sproles’ contract, and his salary for next season ($3.4 million) should not be a major roadblock for any team that has interest in trading for him.
Sproles will turn 31 before next season starts, but that alone is not a big concern with just 437 carries to this point in his career. A greater concern is his dismal finish last season, with just 344 yards from scrimmage on 61 touches over the final eight games of the season (including the postseason), and that average of 5.6 yards per touch is a notable drop from his career average of 6.9 yards per touch during the regular season.
Sproles is best used, and has excelled, in a very specialized offensive role and based on that he is a great fit for the Vikings. But there are signs he is losing explosiveness, and with that in mind the price to acquire him would be too much considering how much general manager Rick Spielman covets draft picks.