Mark Ingram has been with the New Orleans Saints since 2011 but there are questions swirling around his future with the team.
Mark Ingram II has been a running back with the New Orleans Saints since the team selected him in the first round of the 2011 NFL Draft. In his eight seasons, he has rushed for over 6,000 yards and 50 touchdowns. He has become a fan favorite on the Saints roster, earning the nickname “Angry Mark” for the passion he displays on the field.
But with the 2018 season over for the New Orleans Saints, Ingram is now an unrestricted free agent. He has said he would prefer to stay in New Orleans, but with the young Alvin Kamara stepping up to the plate, some doubt that the Saints will feel the pressure to meet Ingram’s price.
But Ingram has proved in the second half of the 2018 season that he is not easily replaceable. Ingram and Kamara started working together in the 2017 season, becoming the most successful running back duo in the NFL. Ingram missed the first four games of 2018 due to a suspension for violating the NFL’s substance abuse policy, and during this time, Kamara stepped up as the team’s primary running back.
But Sean Payton didn’t like that.
“We had to be careful– I’m not sure how well we did– but we had to be careful not to use Alvin too much,” Payton said. The Saints head coach went on to explain how the Ingram/Kamara duo gave New Orleans a clear advantage over opposing defenses.
Ingram rushed for over 750 yards (regular and postseason) in 2018/2019. You could look at Kamara’s stats (over 1,500 yards total) and say that Ingram isn’t worth the Saints money. But that ignores his versatility as a player and the importance of his role in Kamara’s success. For example, in their Week 16 match against the Pittsburgh Steelers, Ingram and Kamara combined for 148 yards and three touchdowns. Ingram’s touchdown, a 1-yard rush towards the end of the game, gave the Saints the 31-28 win over another playoff contender. Ingram has had the best two years of his career alongside Kamara, and at 23-years-old, Kamara is continuing to develop with the help of his veteran teammate.
“I don’t think it’s a thing where we’re just teammates,” Kamara said after that victory over the Steelers. “I think it’s like a brotherhood.”
Ingram is approaching 30-years-old, but there are advantages in holding onto a veteran running back. Ingram has been with the Saints since 2011. He knows their offense and he knows how to the handle the pressure in big moments. He also provides guidance to Kamara, who is still in the early stages of his career.
“Mark’s been someone who is extremely familiar with what we do,” Payton said. “In the third down, in the nickel, in the base. There’s not one thing where I’m looking at the call sheet and thinking ‘aaahhh.’”
“We were at the same position, so when you have somebody you can talk to — not only as a teammate, but as a friend, as a brother, somebody that actually cares about you, then it just makes it easier,” Kamara said. “It’s a different comfort.”
After Le’Veon Bell, Ingram is probably the best running back available in free agency. He might be willing to compromise a bit to stay in New Orleans, but if the Saints don’t snatch him up, someone will. Ingram has made his case to New Orleans. He has shown what kind of player he can be. But will the Saints buy what he is offering?