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Saints 2021 offseason preview: Running Backs

Alvin Kamara’s career year highlights Saints backfield

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2020 Season Review

The 2020 Saints backfield was highlighted by the career year of Alvin Kamara. A career year for a player the caliber of Kamara is something that will be remembered for a while in New Orleans, as Kamara posted 1,688 total yards and 21 total touchdowns, both career highs. His 2020 season was capped off by a brilliant 6 rushing touchdown performance on Christmas Day against the Vikings, the most in a single game in the Super Bowl era. He certainly earned the five-year extension he signed in the offseason and will be the center piece of the Saints offense for many years to come.

Latavius Murray’s second year with the Saints was nearly identical to his first. Murray got the exact same amount of carries as he did in 2019, and ran for 19 more yards but one fewer touchdown. His production in 2021 will determine if the Saints keep him around in 2022, as he will turn 32 just before the playoffs start this season. If he shows any signs of slowing down this year, he will likely be released during the final year of his contract in an effort to clear up more cap space. If he still plays like one of the best #2 options in the league however, he should be brought back for a fourth year as his cap hit is not even one of the 10 highest on the team.

2020 Personnel

(Player-Position-Snap Count)

Alvin Kamara-RB-766

Latavius Murray-RB-382

Michael Burton-FB-235

Ty Montgomery-RB/WR-81

Offseason Departures

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Michael Burton

Fullback is one of the most underappreciated positions in the NFL. Michael Burton signed a one-year deal with the Saints for the 2020 season after previously spending the 2019 offseason with the team before being released in August of that year. It comes as no surprise that Alvin Kamara had his best season on the ground with Burton blocking out of the backfield. Burton signed with the Kansas City Chiefs earlier this month, meaning the Saints will be counting on new signee Alex Armah to pick up where Burton left off.

Potential Free Agent Targets

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Wayne Gallman

It is highly unlikely that the Saints will sign a free agent running back at this point, but if they do, I believe the best fit would be Wayne Gallman. The former Giant had a career year in 2020 in relief of the injured Saquon Barkley, rushing for 682 yards and 6 touchdowns in 10 starts. If the Saints are looking for someone to take over the #2 role in the backfield if Latavius Murray is in fact released next offseason, Gallman would be a good fit. He is just 26 years old and could be signed for a decent price this late in free agency.

Potential Draft Targets

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Michael Carter

Carter posted back to back 1,000 yard seasons for the Tar Heels in his Junior and Senior years, and led the FBS in yards per carry in 2020 at 7.98 YPC. With both Kamara and Murray returning for 2021, it is unlikely the Saints will use a high draft pick on a running back however. If they want to get a year ahead though, and develop a back to go along with Alvin Kamara for 2022 and beyond, we may see them grab one at the end of the 3rd or 4th rounds. Carter would be the best one projected to be available at that time.

2021 Preview

The Saints backfield in 2021 will look nearly identical to the 2020 backfield. The only change was at fullback, as Alex Armah was brought over from the Carolina Panthers to replace Michael Burton. Armah is a blocker like Burton was, and should fill the hole nicely at fullback. The questions in 2021 will be how well Alvin Kamara follows up his career year, if Latavius Murray has a few more years left in him, and if Ty Montgomery can stay healthy enough to be a major contributor in the Saints offense. Either way you look at it, Alvin Kamara is still one of the top tier rushers in the NFL, and will once again be an incredibly dangerous weapon for Sean Payton and new quarterback Jameis Winston.

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