D'Andre Swift has been on the Philadelphia Eagles' radar since he was a standout at nearby St. Joe's Prep in the mid-2010s. Swift's performance against the Eagles in last year's season opener really put the front office on notice.
The local kid rushed torched the Eagles defense, rushing for 144 yards and averaging 9.6 yards per carry, with a rushing touchdown. Philadelphia had no answer for Swift in a thrilling 38-35 victory.
"You saw the explosiveness when we played them. He had a heck of a game," Eagles general manager Howie Roseman said after the draft. "Every time he touched the ball you knew there was a chance he could take it the distance."
The Eagles were familiar with Swift and his family well before his arrival in Philadelphia. They brought him into the NovaCare Complex when Swift was one of the most-sought after recruits in the country. When the Detroit Lions drafted Jahmyr Gibbs at No. 12 overall, Roseman knew there a chance to get him.
"We thought maybe it was an opportunity," Roseman said. "They signed (Lions running back David Montgomery) in free agency and they took Gibbs, and we knew he was in the last year of his deal, and we went into this draft feeling really good about our running back room. We really liked the guys that we have on the roster. We think it was a talented group."
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The Eagles didn't have to give up much to acquire Swift, parting ways with a 2023 seventh-round pick and a 2025 fourth-round pick. Swift joins a running back room that includes free agent signing Rashaad Penny, along with Boston Scott, Kenneth Gainwell, and Trey Sermon.
"It wasn't in our mind a position that we were actively looking to upgrade, but at the same time, we're always looking for opportunities to improve the team," Roseman said. "When this came about, we just felt really good about the player, we felt really good about the person, and it adds another tremendous player and person to our locker room.
"We feel like we really know who he is as a person, have a lot of connections with him."
Eagles RB room: 2023 salary
The total amount of money the Eagles are paying to their top five running backs in 2023 is $6,343,634, as Gainwell and Sermon are the only two players under contract past this season. Gainwell and Sermon were draft picks in the same draft class (2021), but the Eagles claimed Sermon off waivers after he was released by the San Francisco 49ers last September.
Since Roseman returned as general manager, the Eagles haven't given any free agent running back a deal that lasted longer than a year. The Eagles have only drafted one running back higher than the third round during that span in Miles Sanders, who didn't get a second contract despite his production.
Philadelphia isn't going to allocate a lot of cap toward the running back position, using wise investments in free agency or trade acquisitions to assemble a deep stable of ball carriers. This is part of the reason why Philadelphia was not going to use a prime asset at No. 10 overall and draft Bijan Robinson if he fell to them.
Robinson is projected to make $5.925 million per season with his four-year rookie contract. That's more than what the Eagles are paying Swift, Penny, Scott, and Sermon -- combined.
"It starts with the O-line. Obviously for us, that's where it starts," Roseman said. "We have a tremendous O-line. We have tremendous coaches. When they put the game plan together, giving our runners a chance."
Swift and Penny combined to average 5.7 yards per carry last season (156 carries for 888 yards,). Over the last two seasons, the duo combined for 426 carries for 2,254 yards and 5.3 yards per carry. They are making a combined $3,004,399 in 2023 -- $2,920,601 less than Robinson.
The Eagles have the most rushing yards (5,224) and rushing touchdowns (57) over the last two seasons. The strategy has proven to work.
"The guys that we've had have been successful," Roseman said. "They're talented guys who have been successful."