The Saints have traded Darren Sproles to Philadelphia for a fifth-round pick, ending a nearly week-long saga about what would happen to the mismatch-making running back.
An NFL source confirmed the move, first reported by ESPN’s Adam Schefter and
CBSSports’ Jason La Canfora.
The move was all but expected after this past weekend when he tweeted his thanks to the city for three years of support.
"Darren Sproles is one of the smartest football players I've ever been around," head coach Sean Payton said.
By trading Sproles, who set an NFL record for yards gained in a season in 2011, the Saints gained $3.5 million in salary cap space, or the exact amount reportedly needed to fit free agent safety Jairus Byrd into the fold.
The Saints have had success with fifth-round picks under General Manager Mickey Loomis and coach Sean Payton. Kenny Stills, Thomas Morstead, Carl Nicks and Rob Ninkovich all were fifth-round selections. Since 2002, in fact, the Saints have drafted six starters in the fifth-round.
Sproles told ESPN reporter Josina Anderson on Wednesday that he would rather have been cut than traded, saying, “I don’t know where they would send me because I have no control over it and I want to be able to pick.”
Sproles signed with the Saints in 2011 after the lockout ended. He immediately helped New Orleans’ offense put up historic numbers, setting his own NFL record with 2,696 all-purpose yards (rushing, receiving, punt return, kickoff return).
But he never came close to those numbers again.
He gained only 1,577 yards in 2012 and a season later, finished with 1,273 yards, the lowest output of his career.
Still, his 4.2 yard-per-carry average was second-highest on the team and his 604 receiving yards were fourth-most in 2013.
He had 16 receiving touchdowns in his three seasons with the Saints, tied with Lance Moore for third-most on the team in that span.
While not a long-time member of the team, and not part of the Super Bowl-winning 2009 group, he quickly became a fan favorite.
Friday, when word of his impending release was leaked, Sproles took to social media to thank those who follow the Saints.
Thank you New Orleans for your support over the past 3 years! I will always be forever grateful. #WhoDat— Darren Sproles (@DarrenSproles) March 8, 2014
Sproles never was able to hit the apex of his career in 2011 due in part to injuries. He missed three consecutive games in 2012 with a left hand injury. This past season, a concussion kept him out of all but the first series in a loss to the New York Jets and three weeks later, was inactive in New Orleans’ win at Atlanta.