Saints RB Mark Ingram becomes salary cap casualty
That was the signature, and immediate, response my college buddy and best man would give upon hearing bad news.
It crossed my lips Tuesday morning when I read NFL Insider for ESPN Adam Schefter’s Twitter feed that, former Vikings’ running back Latavius Murray was planning to sign a four-year, $14.4 million deal with the Saints.
“A shakeup to RB market,” he wrote. “It now means Mark Ingram not expected to return to New Orleans.”
That was the thought that crossed my mind the instant I learned of Murray’s signing. Just weeks after New Orleans Pelicans superstar Anthony Davis announced he wasn’t re-signing with the team, a favorite New Orleans Saint was “out the door, too.”
Before the deal was verified, social media lit up with speculation as to if Schefter’s report was true and what was going on with Ingram.
Saints defensive end Cameron Jordan captured the sentiment of many fans when he tweeted, “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.”
Apparently the team’s negotiation with Ingram, who the Saints drafted in the first round of the 2011 NFL Draft, broke down. The back was reportedly seeking $5 million a year, while the Saints were holding pat closer to $4 million. When they hit a stalemate, the team signed Murray.
Ingram became a fan favorite in his eight seasons in New Orleans. He leaves the team ranked first in franchise rushing touchdowns (50) and second in franchise rushing yards (6,007), just 89 yards behind Deuce McAllister’s 6,096. Fans and teammates loved his bruising, smash mouth running style, that paired so well the past two seasons with Alvin Kamara’s dashing, mercurial runs. Together Boom and Zoom became, arguably, the best running back duo in the NFL.
Ingram was a vocal leader and well liked in the locker room. He was champion of the team’s practice facility ping pong table, taking all challengers who came for his crown. He’d play shirtless, flexing his muscles, talking trash and giving bounced teammates hell, smiling all the while in a manner that said, “I love you, but you’re done, son.”
His absence was felt during the first four games of the 2018 season when he was suspended for performance enhancing drugs. Head coach Sean Payton played inspiring messages Ingram recorded to the players as they were getting ready to practice those first few weeks.
“It’s really tough for people on the outside to understand Mark’s value,” Saints left tackle Terron Armstead wrote. “He brings energy to any room he steps in! Plays with fire that’s contagious to all of us!”
Pro Football Analyst Michael Detillier has a knack for always trying to find the bright side of things. He tweeted, “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.”
Murray, 29, has rushed for 3,698 yards and 34 touchdowns in five NFL seasons. A sixth round pick by the Raiders in the 2013 NFL Draft, he missed his rookie season due to injury, but returned to be Oakland’s top back. He signed a three-year deal with the Vikings in 2017, however Minnesota restructured Murray’s contract last offseason, voiding the final year of his contract and making him a free agent. He has developed a reputation as an excellent goal-line runner and pass blocker and will likely fill a role similar to Ingram’s.
At $3.6 million a year on average, Murray’s signing frees up money that can, hopefully, be spent shoring up the receiving and pass rush corps.
While Ingram’s likely departure dominated the week’s free agency news, the NFL Network reported backup quarterback Teddy Bridgewater is expected to remain with the Saints despite receiving a better financial offer from the Miami Dolphins. The Saints acquired Bridgewater just before the start of the last season, sending the New York Jets their third round pick in this year’s draft. The network said the QB likes his place on the team and is interested in possibly succeeding Drew Brees when the legend retires. That much was evident in the revelry he showed in videos of the team’s postgame locker room celebrations.
In signing running back Latavius Murray to a four-year, $14.4 million deal, the Saints are parting ways with Mark Ingram.