I generally don’t have a problem with outsiders voicing their opinion, especially when it comes to the New Orleans Saints. However, this outlandish take by Bleacher Report’s Gary Davenport takes the cake. An early morning column by Davenport featured 10 players in a Early Predictions for Most Surprising NFL Veteran Cuts piece. Who’s on it? Mark Ingram.
But whether it's due to age, injury or salary (or some combination of the three), this group of notable and familiar names is probably more than a little nervous that the next phone call they get will leave them looking for work. And while the cold reality of business in the NFL may not surprise, a few of these names finding their way onto the waiver wire could raise eyebrows for the casual fan.
Now, some of these names do make sense. However, the reasoning behind Ingram’s departure doesn’t.
Before I go any further here, a disclaimer.
The New Orleans Saints, who are upside down by about $2.5 million once the rookie pool is accounted for, have an easy path toward getting in the black. All they have to do is cut punter Thomas Morstead after June 1. Problem solved.
But discussing the release of a veteran punter is neither exciting nor surprising, so we'll look at another candidate who could save the team some cheese.
It wasn't long ago that Mark Ingram was the unquestioned lead back in the Big Easy. The lead dog. The big enchilada.
Then the team signed Adrian Peterson.
As Josh Katzenstein of the New Orleans Times-Picayune reported, head coach Sean Payton insisted Peterson was being brought in to help Ingram, not replace him.
"I think the role will be very clear and defined," Payton said. "It's a tough, long 16-week season. I think that he's someone that certainly will be able to complement Mark. Those guys are different in some ways, and yet we feel like we've added another quality player."
Then, just three days later, the Saints traded a seventh-round pick and a 2018 second-rounder to move up and select Tennessee tailback Alvin Kamara.
Suddenly, that clear status as the Saints' lead back was as muddy as the mighty Mississippi.
Ingram's a decent running back coming off the first 1,000-yard season of his six-year career. And he insisted to Mark Inabinett of AL.com that he wasn't surprised by the team's additions.
"Listen, man, it's nothing new," Ingram said. "I've been sharing the ball with one or two, maybe even three, guys since I got there. I figured we were going to draft somebody or get somebody in free agency. We still might. I figured that was going to happen, so it's not surprising to me.
Ingram's also a player who hasn't lived up to expectations, who has had flareups with Payton and whose release would net the team over $3 million against the cap.
Where do I begin? For starters, Thomas Morstead is a prime candidate for a contract extension. His cap hit of $4.7 million is the second-highest in the NFL behind Kansas City’s Dustin Colquitt. Having turned just 35, Colquitt’s $4.9 million hit is also the final year of his contract. Morstead still has one more season after 2017, and is currently 31. So, to even suggest cutting him would be the best course of action is simply ludicrous, especially for a Top 5 punter (both net and average, mind you).
Let’s get to Ingram, because Adrian Peterson and Alvin Kamara don’t cloud the backfield for the Saints. This is a team that had four running backs (Pierre Thomas, Darren Sproles, Chris Ivory, and Mark Ingram) and didn’t have an issue en route to being the league’s top offense of 2011. These are also very different backs.
Peterson hasn’t even hit the field yet, and the Saints haven’t been that fortunate in the injury department to use him as their lone featured back. Plus, this isn’t prime Peterson we’re talking about these days. As for Kamara, he has a completely different skill set altogether that would be featured on 3rd Down and in the return game.
And if we’re reading into the ‘flareup’ with Sean Payton in the Cardinals game, it was more about Ingram’s competitive nature. That’s something that has long followed Ingram, and he even said that emotions got the best of him.
"I'm real competitive in everything I do, I got to be smarter, I got to control my emotions better, but we had a great win as a team and that's our No. 1 goal. And that's what I'm happy for, that we're bringing a win back to New Orleans."
If it was as big of a deal as some would like to make it out to be, then don’t you think Ingram would have been traded?
Speaking of trades, Ingram was also the subject of trade speculation this morning, mainly driven by the Philadelphia Eagles crowd. For whatever reason, everyone wants Ingram, but he’s not going anywhere for 2017.
The bottom line, cap ‘concerns’ for the rookie pool are the easiest layups you’ll ever see Mickey Loomis and his team make. The Saints can make a host of moves to make room, and oh by the way, Jarius Byrd’s deal comes off the books on June 1, which will save the Saints $7.8 million.