Was re-signing of Ingram a ‘sure thing’ for Saints?
The Saints re-signing running back Mark Ingram makes sense.
And, then again, it doesn’t.
In four seasons, Ingram has rushed for 100 yards or more in five games. His longest rush in 2014, his best season, was 31 yards.
Ingram had three rushing touchdowns in his last eight games. Thirteen running backs in the NFL rushed for more yards than Mark Ingram in 2014.
So, why did the Saints agree with Ingram on a four-year, $16 million contract?
There are several layers.
For one, there is no guarantee the Saints would come up with a player of comparable abilities in the draft. The 2014 draft may have only two backs who are standouts.
One is Wisconsin’s Melvin Gordon. The other, Georgia’s Todd Gurley, is coming off major knee surgery.
So, the Saints took the known, a player who has been in their system for four years.
The Saints also have more pressing needs. Cornerback, linebacker, offensive line and wide receiver are all need areas. Head coach Sean Payton and general manager Mickey Loomis likely didn’t want to use a high pick on a runner, when the Saints have other concerns.
In a courtside interview during a recent Pelicans telecast, the normally guarded Payton let his guard down a bit. He spoke of the quality and depth of wide receivers in the upcoming draft.
That list includes Amari Cooper from Alabama, Kevin White from West Virginia, Devin Smith of Ohio State and Devin Funchess of Michigan.
Of the top half dozen or so, all stand taller than 6 feet. And Payton has always shown a penchant for taller receivers.
Another layer of retaining Ingram is Payton’s infatuation with him. In 2011, the Saints traded back up into the first round to select Ingram. The Saints surrendered their second-round pick that season and a first-round pick in 2012.
The Saints are heavily invested in Ingram. The last thing they wanted to see was Ingram depart and succeed elsewhere.
“He’s our draft pick, you know,” said Payton to espn.com.
That little nugget from Payton about says it all. His love fest with Ingram started in his rookie season.
Payton joked that he was the one person who could keep Ingram out of the Pro Bowl. It was a reference to Ingram not getting enough carries in the Saints backfield by committee.
That committee has shrunk. Darren Sproles was traded to Philadelphia in 2014. Pierre Thomas was a salary cap casualty earlier this month.
The argument from Ingram supporters is that he needs plenty of work, like he got at the University of Alabama, to be effective.
There may be some truth to that. In 2014, Ingram weighed less, and displayed more quicks, and a decisiveness on some of his runs that was lacking in his three previous seasons.
So, the Saints are all-in on Ingram, who will get ample opportunity to prove that he is running past good on the way to excellent.