“Gone but never forgotten.”
“Better a minute too early, than a minute too late.”
Both quotes above are the epitome of each perspective involved in the New Orleans Saints decision Tuesday to essentially move on from two-time pro bowl running-back Mark Ingram. There’s either a side in mourn or a side bravely facing a very harsh reality.
With all of the news surrounding Latavius Murray, Ingram, and the New Orleans Saints circulating Tuesday there have been many reactions to dissect. Let’s look through them!
End of an era
ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported the first domino Tuesday Morning as the Saints are expected to sign Murray, the former Minnesota Viking to a four-year deal worth $14.4 million.
Former Vikings’ RB Latavius Murray intends to sign a four-year deal with the Saints, per source.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) March 12, 2019
A shakeup to RB market. It now means Mark Ingram not expected to return to New Orleans.
Murray’s deal signals the start of a new era in the New Orleans Saints’ backfield, as Mark Ingram’s time in the big easy appears all but over.
With the Saints intention to sign running back Latavius Murray per @AdamSchefter Running back Mark Ingram’s time in New Orleans is over. The 2 sides tried to get a deal done in good faith but they could not agree on compensation. #Saints— Dianna Russini (@diannaESPN) March 12, 2019
Big shoes to fill
Ingram’s departure brings back the reminder of the cold reality that exists in the NFL and professional sports as a whole. The former first-round pick had a fantastic eight-year career with the Saints as he will leave second all-time in rushing and currently holds the all-time record in rushing touchdowns. He leaves behind quite a legacy.
I agree with Seth here. Let's remember, Ingram w/ #Saints:— Deuce Windham (@RevDeuceWindham) March 12, 2019
2nd All Time in Rush yards (89 behind Deuce)
1st All Time in Rush TDs (50)
2nd All Time in YPC (4.5, Min 800 att)
7th All Time in Rec Yards for RB (1,598)
2nd All time in Rec % (79.7)
Took a discount on last contract https://t.co/SKoORbUKO7
It’s really tough for people on the outside to understand Mark’s value. He brings energy to any room he steps in! Plays with fire that’s contagious to all of us! ⚜️ for life!— Terron Armstead (@T_Armstead72) March 12, 2019
To me that’s family... I’ve made a lot of friends in the locker room and I’ve created family ties to some guys. I’ve watched some of the best teammates leave and IF this happens for real this one gone hurt— cameron jordan (@camjordan94) March 12, 2019
Bout to change my phone numbers.— Alvin Kamara (@A_kamara6) March 12, 2019
Ingram also leaves behind a locker room reputation that will dearly be missed, and no matter how good Latavius Murray performs on the field —will remain unmatched off the field. And let’s not dismiss the brother-like relationship Ingram openly had with the soon to be lead back Alvin Kamara.
2014? What can Murray provide?
Did the Saints make a mistake in letting one of their newfound culture generators walk for an assumed downgrade? Could this be similar to 2014 all over again?
I get business of pro sports, understand why Saints signed Latavius Murray.— Fletcher Mackel (@FletcherWDSU) March 12, 2019
I just hope this isn’t 2014 all over again.
That year NOLA let Malcolm Jenkins, Roman Harper, Lance Moore & Darren Sproles go & regretted it.
Ingram beloved in locker room. Epitome of Saints culture.
Latavius Murray is a notable downgrade from Mark Ingram. More snaps coming for Alvin Kamara?— Andy Benoit (@Andy_Benoit) March 12, 2019
What about Murray? Are we forgetting the type of offensive lines, Quarterbacks, and offensive minds he’s played with over time?
While Ingram is the superior player, the rest of the offseason in NOLA surrounded by the best offensive cast that Murray has seen may inch the needle closer than expected. And we also must remember the options that could come available during the draft, unrestricted free agency, and throughout the pre-season. Let’s not forget the ability the Saints have shown to find under the radar talented running backs in the Loomis-Payton era.
Been asking around about Latavius Murray. Only glowing remarks about how he's a great teammate. Likely a piece as to why the Saints viewed Murray as a potential RB if things didn't work out with Mark Ingram.— Larry Holder (@LarryHolder) March 12, 2019
I certainly think Mark Ingram is better than Latavius Murray, and the market appears to agree. But, it's important to realize Murray has never played with a QB or O-line as good as Ingram had the past couple years.— Josh Katzenstein (@jkatzenstein) March 12, 2019
Latavius Murray averaged 2.89 yards after contact last season. Ask any Vikings fan you can find about last year's team and they'll complain about the O-Line blocking for him.— John Sigler (@john_siglerr) March 12, 2019
How's he going to do with the Saints' OL, stocked with All-Pros and Pro Bowlers, ahead of him?
The hatred of the experts on the Murray deal is weird. It’s 1.86% of the cap. That’s nothing. Also it doesn’t stop Saints from drafting RB or adding UDFAs.— Ralph Malbrough (@SaintsForecast) March 12, 2019
The answers are unknown at this time as while the 2014 worries are reasonable, the numbers behind them aren’t. The 2014 Saints tried to change personnel and empty out older veterans, for more younger, spry, dynamic playmaking talents.
And in the case of that year, New Orleans replaced multiple talents at various positions to go with electing new leadership that lets just say —didn’t seep through every belt loop.
The case of Mark Ingram is New Orleans sticking to their guns with other holes to fill in a position group where they already have a star player that should be ready for a lead role.
The Saints didn’t have many of those examples in 2014 when they added several names from the outside. The chemistry NOLA has built this time around has a great chance of remaining strong, as they have resigned other key compartments from last year’s playoff run.
And when it comes to Murray, the Saints clearly have done their homework and have a clear role in mind for him.
Latavius Murray is a tall in the saddle power runner with excellent straight line speed. Very good red-zone runner (26 TD's-last 3 seasons rushing), he's a good receiver coming out of the backfield. 1 fumble in the past 3 seasons. Not a very elusive back & he's had some injuries.— Michael Detillier (@MikeDetillier) March 12, 2019
He has strengths as a red zone runner that is used to catching the ball out of the backfield as well as making decisive cuts once a hole is available. With his size and the talent of the Saints offensive line, New Orleans may not need much more from Murray.
Ain’t nothing more important than the moolah
Let’s not forget the money aspect here either. It doesn’t get much more simple than this: The Saints wanted Mark Ingram — at the right price. The rumors are that Ingram is expecting anywhere from seven and a half to eight million in salary per year. The Baltimore Ravens appear to be the team first in line willing to meet his demands.
The Ravens are currently the frontrunnner to sign Mark Ingram, per source.— Josh Katzenstein (@jkatzenstein) March 12, 2019
That’s double what the Saints paid for in Murray. No matter how bad the Saints wanted Ingram to return, they had their limits and stuck their guns.
At it’s lowest Ingram’s asking salary according to https://overthecap.com would place him right around the top seven ranking of highest paid running backs. And at eight million per year he’d be fighting for top five position. The problem is, Ingram would be the second oldest running back to crack the top ten, and the third oldest if we include the top 20.
With a few other spotted holes left open on the roster, the Saints simply could not afford to pay Ingram what he wanted and ultimately deserved in his presumed final opportunity at a big payday. Even in a win-now mode as we count Drew Brees’ final NFL snaps.
And we must also remember the younger star talents the Saints will have to pay big money eventually. Not to mention, Ingram wouldn’t even be the best running back on his team.
The Kamara effect/Passing of the torch
Running backs in today’s NFL are found all over the place if given the right opportunity and system to thrive in. No one knows about that better than Alvin Kamara. While Mark Ingram was apart of a great duo in New Orleans, the Saints are best with Kamara on the field.
Yes, they’ve tried to limit his workload. Yes, they’re still going to want to keep him fresh as the season progresses, so much that we shouldn’t rule out a third running back having a chance to make a rotational impact at some juncture.
The biggest key here, however, is that Kamara is one of the best running backs in football. With a larger role, there’s a chance he could be the undisputed best. Kamara has the torch, and the juice now.
At some point, Alvin Kamara was going to take the full and total lead of the backfield. He’s too talented.— Nick Underhill (@nick_underhill) March 12, 2019
If you polled 100 NFL coaches right now, at least 70 would say Alvin Kamara is the best all-around RB in the NFL.— Andy Benoit (@Andy_Benoit) March 12, 2019
Overall, Mark Ingram will forever be in the hearts and minds of Saints fans for his contributions on and off the field in New Orleans. The business of professional sports requires us all, however, to separate the emotion from the logic when making personnel decisions.
The New England Patriots have been dominant over the past two decades not just because of their talent and coaching, but because of their ability to know when a dollar amount is too steep to tackle in certain areas. Running backs don’t have a very long shelf life in the NFL, and while Ingram’s workload doesn’t match the average soon to be 30 year old, the Saints’ hands were tied, and they stuck to their gut feeling.
There will be a lot of work to be done going forward as Murray and others will have huge shoes to fill. The organization will have to provide reassurance to several that confided in Mark. And it’s a wake-up call to other key contributing veterans that if Mark Ingram can be moved on from, almost anybody can.
There will still be several number 22 jerseys walking around the super dome, and he will one day be given every player award and retirement ceremony possible once his cleats are retired and his playing days are over. Ingram deserved a payday for all of the hard work he’s put in from day one. He had no choice but to get his worth, but unfortunately, we must all remember, either did New Orleans.