Is Signing Frank Gore to a Three-Year Deal Smart for the Philadelphia Eagles?
Trading a key player is always a big decision, but that's exactly what the Philadelphia Eagles just did by shipping out LeSean McCoy to the Buffalo Bills, a move causing most to do a bit of a double-take.
The Eagles, of course, had a bit of a void in the backfield. Given the state of the current NFL, a league rife with opportunities to bring in new talent in some form or fashion -- be it the draft, free agency, trades, or simply looking deeper at the depth chart -- the Eagles had plenty of options in terms of replacing McCoy.
Well, the Eagles again made a surprise choice about the backfield situation, and Frank Gore is expected to sign with the team for three years (two of which are guaranteed), according to Adam Schefter.
Gore turns 32 in May, so the Eagles will have running back under contract while he plays his 32- and 33-year-old seasons at least.
Does this deal make any sense for Philly?
Let's break down the numbers.
If you could only use one adjective to describe Frank Gore, consistent wouldn't be a bad one with which to go.
Gore has nine straight seasons between 203 and 312 carries, and he has failed to meet the 1,000-yard plateau just once in that span (when he missed five games in 2010). He has never failed to maintain a yards per carry average better than 4.1.
Of course, he's had some not-so-good touchdown totals sprinkled in throughout his career (such as just four touchdowns this season), and his receiving numbers are trending downward quite noticeably. Excluding Gore's rookie season, he averaged 74 targets and 51 receptions in his first six years in the league. In his four most recent ones, those averages are down to 28 targets and 18 receptions.
Still, Gore's yardage totals indicate that he's as consistent as they come.
What about the advanced metrics?
Because Gore is consistently a 200-plus-carry back, it's only fair to compare his production and efficiency relative to other 200-plus-carry rushers.
This table, then, reflects Gore's relevant Net Expected Points (NEP) metrics. Rushing NEP indicates how many points above or below expectation a player nets his team based on his cumulative carries. NEP factors in game flow variables (such as down and distance and score) to differentiate between plays that would otherwise appear identical in game logs. For example, a one-yard carry netting a first down inside the red zone adds expected points to a team. A one-yard carry on third-and-two that results in a punt doesn't.
|Year||Rush NEP||Rank||Per Rush||Rank||Success Rate||Rank||Total NEP||Rank|
|2006||-1.52||12 of 27||0.00||12 of 27||42.63%||12 of 27||34.05||7 of 27|
|2007||-21.80||16 of 22||-0.08||16 of 22||37.07%||19 of 22||1.40||13 of 22|
|2008||-9.12||16 of 24||-0.04||16 of 24||40.17%||16 of 24||12.46||10 of 24|
|2009||-0.82||10 of 22||0.00||10 of 22||37.55%||20 of 22||37.08||3 of 22|
|2010||-13.29||15 of 23||-0.07||16 of 23||40.89%||12 of 23||19.28||8 of 23|
|2011||-16.34||17 of 19||-0.06||16 of 19||39.01%||16 of 19||-10.56||17 of 19|
|2012||12.00||4 of 23||0.05||4 of 23||45.59%||8 of 23||24.16||5 of 23|
|2013||-17.29||18 of 22||-0.06||18 of 22||40.94%||14 of 22||-13.60||19 of 22|
|2014||-14.84||15 of 17||-0.06||15 of 17||42.52%||10 of 17||-6.68||15 of 17|
I know it's a lot of numbers to examine, but really, you can just focus on Gore's ranks among high-volume rushers to see where he stacks up. It's not exactly pretty. In just three of these nine seasons did Gore finish inside the top half of Rushing NEP and Rushing NEP per carry.
Gore has also finished in the top half just three times in Success Rate, which measures the rate at which a player contributes positively toward a team's NEP. Basically, Gore's carries don't exactly keep the sticks moving like we may think they do based on his consistent raw production and respectable yards per carry.
Any way you slice it, Gore's rushing metrics are pretty modest at best, but it isn't too hard to see why he has earned a reputation as a reliable option. Just look at the far right column, which displays his Total NEP ranks among backs with at least 200 carries. After some pretty dang good receiving numbers throughout his career, there has been a noticeable decline in his Total NEP, which includes both Rushing NEP and Reception NEP.
Gore has shown the ability to be an above-average dual-threat back -- much more so than the ability to be an above-average rusher.
Lately, though, Gore's significant decline in receiving in addition to his not-that-great rushing has really dampened his overall impact in the league. Given his age, he shouldn't be expecting much of a Total NEP resurgence.
Fitting into Philly
I'm sure the idea that Gore can become a consistent receiving option again in Philadelphia's offense has crossed your mind, my sagacious reader, but let's break down what the Eagles backfield really looked like in 2014.
For as struggle-filled as LeSean McCoy's 2014 campaign was, his rushing metrics weren't that bad, especially when examined against 200-plus-carry rushers.
Problematically, though, McCoy's receiving was practically nonexistent, and he finished with a Reception NEP of just 1.71 in 2014, which was one of the worst tallies among all running backs. McCoy's Total NEP of -4.24 ranked just 49th among 68 running backs with at least 60 opportunities (rushes plus targets).
Darren Sproles' Total NEP, conversely, ranked seventh among those 68 backs as a result of an efficient season both rushing and receiving. I'm not saying that Gore won't see an uptick in reception numbers this year but rather noting that it was clearly the Sproles Show out of the backfield in 2014.
Moving Neither Forward nor Back
The Eagles offense, which ranked 15th in Adjusted NEP per play in 2014, sure didn't operate as efficiently as their no-huddle approach often seemed, and this signing surely filled a need but likely won't be a key reason why the Eagles improve on offense -- if they do -- in 2015.
Based on his age (which doesn't necessarily indicate an expected upswing in Total NEP production), his modest rushing metrics, his dwindling receiving, and the presence of Sproles to continue catching the ball out of the backfield, Gore might again be destined to be a player to run the ball at the line of scrimmage without much of an overall impact on the Philadelphia offense unless his receiving ability reappears or he somehow turns around his rushing efficiency in his 11th NFL season and beyond.