Having traded Reggie Bush to the Miami Dolphins, the New Orleans Saints were in the market for a versatile player to replace him. They found that player in former San Diego running back Darren Sproles.
Sproles figures to assume much of the role that Bush performed during his five-year career with the Saints. He joins a revamped Saints running back depth chart that includes Pierre Thomas, second-year player Chris Ivory, and rookie first-round pick Mark Ingram.
The Chargers franchised the diminutive Sproles for the 2009 season and retained his services last year, paying him close to $14 million over the past two seasons. Reports indicate the Saints will pay Sproles that amount over the next four years.
Because San Diego had a difficult salary-cap situation and had Mike Tolbert, 2010 first-round pick Ryan Mathews, and 2011 sixth-round pick Jordan Todman on their roster, it was expected that Sproles would leave as a free agent.
While Sproles is a dynamic player, he doesn’t enhance an offense the way Bush did, and he is unlikely to have as big an impact in New Orleans as Bush had.
In addition, Lance Moore was re-signed to a lucrative contract extension this offseason. A receiver’s new contract may seem to have little bearing on a running back’s production, but Moore was essentially Bush’s replacement as a receiver, often posting big numbers when Bush was injured. While Sproles will certainly contribute in the passing game, Moore’s lucrative deal likely means that he will get more playing time in 2011 than in previous years.
In the run game for the past few seasons, Bush essentially split time with Pierre Thomas and a second running back (first Mike Bell and then Chris Ivory last year). With Sproles now on the roster, the Saints are four deep at running back. This ensures that, barring injuries, Sproles won’t be receiving a significant number of carries.
If the presence of Sproles in New Orleans doesn’t sound too exciting from a fantasy perspective, there’s a reason for that. It’s all about opportunity. It’s hard to see Sproles getting significant touches in New Orleans, and that leaves him as waiver wire material unless those above him on the depth chart become injured.