Everyone knows by now that Mark Ingram is suspended for the first four games this coming season. Most know the suspension is for performance enhancing drugs or masking drugs. Some know the Saints will now face two divisional foes, the Bucs and Falcons, along with the Browns and Giants without their primary workhorse back.
What I find interesting and worth noting, perhaps, is the odd timeline of events surrounding Ingram’s suspension. It appears Ingram is holding out from OTAs until at least mini camp because he is seeking a new contract from the Saints. His suspension does not bar him from participating in offseason activities, and yet, he remains absent three weeks into OTAs.
Another wrinkle developed three weeks ago when Ingram switched agents from Joel Segal, with Lagardere Sports and Entertainment to Paul Bobbitt and David Jones, with VIP Sports Management, which is based in Detroit, close to where Ingram played high school football. Bobbit actually played with Ingram’s father at Michigan State in the 1980s.
It’s common for players to switch agents in contract years. Though, I wonder if it’s uncommon for players to switch agents during periods following a failed drug test and appeal. Ingram and the Saints have reportedly known about the looming suspension for “several weeks”.
It’s no wonder why the Saints plucked Louisiana Tech running back Boston Scott in the 6th round of the draft. I’d love to know if Ingram switched prior to his knowledge of the suspension or after.
If he switched to VIP after finding out he was going to be suspended, his latest actions could indicate he’s receiving poor business advice from those he should trust. Or perhaps he received really bad advice from his previous agent and made the switch at that.
I hope this isn’t a Kawhi Leonard debacle in the making where a player fires their previous agent, replaces them with a family member or friend, and proceeds to hold out for a new contract when they really don’t have much leverage at all.
I hate the argument that the Saints should trade Ingram (which is significantly harder and less likely now) while his value is higher than his $4 Million per year current contract. Why can’t the Saints give him a three year extension for $5 Million a year? He’s certainly proved over the past two seasons, and really three out of the last four, that he is totally worth his paycheck.
It’s shortsighted to compare his contract value with Kamara’s because they are in different phases of their careers. Yes, Ingram’s rookie contract was more expensive than Kamara’s as they were drafted in different rounds. But you would be kidding yourself not to expect Kamara to command his own sizable contract extension in three years.
So why not extend Ingram three years until the age of 31 when Kamara is due his next contract? There’s more juice to squeeze out of Ingram. Compared to other backs from his 2011 draft class like DeMarco Murray, who has rushed 421 more times in the same span, Ingram is much fresher and clearly only getting better with each passing year.
The conspiracy theorist in me believes Ingram may have purposely dosed himself in order to force a suspension and hinder any possible trade talks with the team that drafted him to a city he now calls home. But the realist in me worries that his previous production was only due his reliance on PEDs.
The fan in me, however, knows Ingram is an incredibly nice person, a strong locker room leader, a willing running back side-kick, and a great tipper (this is on good authority).
Yes $5-6 Million a year, or whatever Ingram might be inching for, is more than Kamara gets paid, for now. But if the Saints keep both backs for the next three years, I don’t think there would be any free agent backs more valuable, productive, and team seasoned than Mark Ingram.
He’s only averaged 13.4 games a season during his career anyway. What’s one more game missed this season? In 2015, Ingram played in 12 games, rushed the ball 166 times for 769 yards, averaging 4.6 yards per carry, and accruing 44 first downs. That ain’t bad while missing four games.
Obviously Ingram shot himself in the foot a la Willie Snead by allowing a disciplinary issue to cloud his value to his team. I hope Ingram can learn from this mistake, but I’m worried the Saints will make a greater mistake by forcing a good player out the door because they compare his value to the value of one of the greatest draft steals of the past ten years.