After gaining only 138 rushing yards and scoring one touchdown through the first six games of the season, Saints running back Latavius Murray has racked up 221 yards and three touchdowns in just the past two weeks. Almost unbelievably, Murray’s receiving touchdown against the Cardinals was his first ever as a pro.
He told Rich Eisen on his show that head coach Sean Payton had really “opened up the playbook” for him in recent weeks with star running back Alvin Kamara nursing both knee and ankle injuries. If you haven’t watched The Rich Eisen show, I suggest you tune in sometime.
He hosts interesting guests across all sports and conducts great interviews. The Rich Eisen Show airs daily at 12:00 p.m. – 3:00 p.m. ET on AT&T AUDIENCE Network which can be found on DIRECTV Ch. 239. The full interview can be viewed here:
With Murray’s recent resurgence, I couldn’t help but wonder if he had solidified himself as an adequate replacement for former fan favorite and now Baltimore Ravens Mark Ingram. Of course, it was probably impossible for any running back tandem to get along as seamlessly and unselfishly as Mark Ingram and Kamara had in 2017 and 2018.
So, instead of focusing on the awesomeness of Ingram and Kamara’s friendship, let’s look strictly at the numbers to see how well Murray has filled Ingram’s shoes. Because both Murray and Ingram are the same age, I thought it most fair to simply compare their 2019 stats. I did not factor in what they have done in the past for their former teams.
This past offseason, Ingram signed a three-year deal with the Ravens for $15 million, which, assuming he plays out the entire contract, averages out to $5 million per year. Halfway through the 2019 season, Ingram has played 298 snaps or 0.497% of his team’s total offensive snaps.
In 114 rush attempts, Ingram has gained 585 yards, scored seven rushing touchdowns, and averaged 5.1 yards per attempt. He’s also caught 14 receptions for 125 yards, without scoring a reception touchdown, fumbling the ball twice.
If we take Ingram’s total yards (710) and divide them by his annual average salary ($5 million), that comes out to $7,042.25 per yard. If we take his total touchdowns (seven) and divide them by his annual average salary, that comes out to $714,285.71 per touchdown.
Obviously these figures are only for half a season’s work and the values will go down assuming Ingram keeps producing at this pace. I will use the same method to now calculate Murray’s production per dollar paid.
The Saints let Ingram walk away in free agency, but appeared to save some cap money by signing Murray to a four-year deal worth $14.4 million, which averages out to $3.6 million per year if he plays for the Saints through 2022. Halfway through the 2019 season, Murray has played 249 snaps or 0.453% of his team’s total offensive snaps.
In 80 rush attempts, Murray has gained 359 yards, four rushing touchdowns, and averaged 4.5 yards per attempt. He’s caught 23 receptions for 153 yards, scoring one touchdown and fumbling zero times.
If we take Murray’s total yards (512) and divide them by his annual average salary ($3.6 million), that comes out to $7,031.25 per yard. If we take his total touchdowns (five) and divide them by his annual average salary, that comes out to $720,000 per touchdown.
Looking strictly at production per dollar paid, it appears the Saints are only saving $11 per yard of production while paying about $5,714 more per touchdown since signing Murray instead of keeping Ingram.
And before Murray’s breakout performance against the Bears, his compensation was closer to $1.8 million per touchdown. Fortunately, it seems Murray has taken advantage of his increased opportunities since Kamara has been resting, and that has helped make him look more like a quality free agent signing.
But if Murray hadn’t risen to the occasion over the past two weeks, letting Ingram walk to save roughly $4 million over a three year period could have looked like a huge mistake. It might still end up being a mistake because after Kamara returns to the lineup, Murray’s touches will likely reduce by half.
In the interest of playing devil’s advocate, however, the Saints may have been calculated in their evaluation of the market value of a tandem running back situation. After all, the Saints are effectively getting almost the exact same “bang for the buck” with Murray as the Ravens are getting with Ingram.
In addition, Ingram is by far the most used back in Baltimore, while Murray shares a much more evenly distributed tandem role with Alvin Kamara. The other Ravens running backs include rookie Justice Hill, who has gained 85 rushing yards over 21 attempts and second year pro Gus Edwards, who has gained 261 rushing yards over 59 attempts.
Even though Kamara has missed significant time over the past few weeks, he still has gained 373 rushing yards over 86 attempts, which are both more than all Ravens running backs not named Ingram combined.
Ingram has accounted for 59% of the Ravens’ total rushing attempts. Murray, on the other hand, has accounted for 47% of the Saints’ total rushing attempts, while Kamara has accounted for roughly 50%.
The argument can be made, therefore, that Murray is producing nearly the same yardage and touchdown results per dollar paid as Ingram despite having 12% less chances to do so.
Finally, simple math shows us that the Saints have a quality running back, who is 29 years old, signed for the next four years for $14.4 million. The Ravens have another quality running back, who is also 29 years old, signed for the next three years for $15 million.
Alright Saints fans, what do you think? Should the Saints have paid more to keep Ingram or has Murray done enough to fill the void while providing some much needed cap space?
Should the Saints have paid Ingram more to stay or has Murray provided adequate production for the discount he signed for?
This poll is closed
The Saints should have ponied up the dough to keep the Ingram and Kamara tandem together.
The Saints did the right thing by maintaining similar quality at a position while saving money needed for other positions.