- Matt Williamson, ESPN.com
Darren Sproles' time with the New Orleans Saints is coming to an end this offseason, according to multiple reports. The Saints are parting ways with Sproles not because Sproles is no longer a good player, but because they are in a very difficult financial situation with regard to the salary cap, and they have an abundance of running backs. Khiry Robinson looks like an up-and-comer and Mark Ingram quietly had a very impressive 2013 season.
Despite playing in 15 games last year, Sproles' snap count had decreased in each of the past three seasons. A player who is very reliant on exceptional movement skills, Sproles isn't what he once was, especially as a pure runner, but he is still an exceptional receiver out of the backfield or detached from the formation running wide receiver routes. Sproles averaged well over five receptions per game over the past three seasons, but had just 101 carries over the past two years.
At this point of his career, it would be surprising if Sproles demanded a huge contract. Additionally, teams that are up against the cap probably will not be purchasing a "luxury item" like Sproles, and rebuilding teams are probably not interested, either. Also, a key with Sproles is having a knowledgeable quarterback who can audible at the line of scrimmage and manipulate the formation to get Sproles in the best place to succeed, and having a very creative offensive coordinator is also important.
With all of those factors in mind, here are my picks for five possible new homes for Sproles in 2014. It was tough narrowing this list down, and Minnesota, which could offer Sproles a reunion with offensive coordinator Norv Turner, just missed the cut.
The Broncos could be without Eric Decker and Knowshon Moreno next season, with Montee Ball primed to take over as the leading ball carrier. But Ball doesn't offer anything close to what Sproles does in the passing game.
The Broncos' championship window with Peyton Manning at the helm won't be open long, so they need to surround him with as many weapons as possible, and there isn't a quarterback in the league who would be better than Manning in maneuvering Sproles around presnap to create mismatches. The Broncos also could be in the market for a reliable return man, which is another role that Sproles can fill.
With Darren Sproles' time with the New Orleans Saints reportedly coming to an end, Matt Williamson identifies a handful of teams that should target him.