The Philadelphia Eagles are still entertaining the prospect of bringing back Jay Ajayi, as agent Drew Rosenhaus told Philly.com’s Les Bowen at the NFL Owners Meetings that Ajayi is “maintaining discussions” with the Eagles on a return. Ajayi’s free agent visit with the Indianapolis Colts “went well” according to Rosenhaus, but the running back left without a deal.
Ajayi is expected to be ready for the start of the season. Ajayi tore his ACL in Week 5 of last season and played the majority of 2018 with a fractured back, affecting his free agent status.
The Eagles communicating with Ajayi at this stage in free agency means they are expressing interest in bringing him back, which may have been their free ageny plan. Sign Ajayi and draft a running back in the early rounds.
Again, this all depends on Ajayi’s health.
Ajayi has the resume that many teams covet in 2019 after having 562 carries for 2,516 yards and 13 touchdowns in four seasons, averaging 4.5 yards per carry. During his 42 games in the NFL, Ajayi was never in the top tier of running backs in the NFL…but he was in that next tier of quality starting running backs in the league.
Ajayi began to look like the running back that had a breakout 2016 season with the Miami Dolphins after he was traded to the Eagles in 2017, when he had 260 carries for 1,272 yards and eight touchdowns, averaging 4.9 yards per carry and earning a Pro Bowl berth. That Ajayi had three 200-yard rushing games and averaged 17.3 carries a game.
Providing an excellent combination of speed and power for the Eagles during their Super Bowl run, Ajayi finished with 70 carries for 408 yards and a touchdown in seven games with the Eagles, averaging 5.8 yards per carry. He was the Eagles No. 1 back in the postseason, carrying the ball 42 times for 184 yards (4.4 yards per carry) and having six catches for 70 yards.
Those numbers are much different than the seven games he played for the Miami Dolphins in 2017, when Ajayi had 138 carries for 465 yards, averaging 3.4 yards per carry. Thanks to his resurgence in Philadelphia, Ajayi had 208 carries for 873 yards and a touchdown in 2017, averaging 4.2 yards per carry.
Ajayi was set to make a good deal of guaranteed money in free agency, whether it was from the Eagles or another team. That’s gone after his ACL surgery ended an injury-plagued 2018 season which Ajayi ran 45 times for 184 yards and three touchdowns (4.1 yards per carry). Ajayi will be forced to sign a “prove it” deal in order to restore his value in 2019, a year which he likely won’t be 100 percent until October (but still should be ready for the start of the season).
Spotrac projected Ajayi’s market value at $3.6 million per season, but he’s expected to make much less than that after Tevin Coleman received just north of $4 million per year.
The Eagles need to improve the 28th-ranked rushing offense from last season, which was 16th in the NFL at 110.8 yards per game when Ajayi was lost for the year with the ACL injury. Ajayi would lead the Eagles running back-by-committee if the franchise were to bring him back, but there are doubts on whether he will be ready for a heavy workload in Week 1.