The New Orleans Saints have decided not to exercise the fifth-year option on RB Mark Ingram. As a result of the new CBA, rookies are required to sign four-year contracts and teams are given the choice to keep them around for a fifth year, but the deadline to do so was yesterday. The Saints took that route with defensive end Cam Jordan, but since they choose not to with Ingram, he will become a free agent following the 2014 season.
The former Heisman Trophy winner has not yet lived up to expectations during his time with the Black and Gold. He showed flashes of his potential with a strong end to the 2013 season, but there’s no telling if that will continue when you look back at his inconsistent past. Ingram certainly has the ability to excel as a featured back in the right type of ground-and-pound system; however, he will need to average 20-30 carries per game to do so.
That’s not going to happen in New Orleans. So, what to do with Marky Mark? Do the Saints have other plans for him in the near future?
In exactly one week, the 2014 NFL draft will be kicking off and plenty of teams are in the market for a running back. Since a fifth-year option was not exercised on Ingram, a deal sending him to another organization on draft day might be something to think about for New Orleans. He will come cheap, and I’m sure a number of teams would not hesitate to send over a late-round pick to the Saints in exchange for Ingram’s NFL experience.
New Orleans will probably look to target a replacement for Darren Sproles to add some extra speed to the backfield. Acquiring an extra draft pick would give GM Mickey Loomis and Sean Payton another opportunity to work their magic in the later rounds.
The Saints have always been unpredictable on draft day, and anything can happen. I am not saying an Ingram trade is probable, but choosing not to exercise that fifth-year option makes the scenario seem much more possible. Pierre Thomas and Khiry Robinson are both clearly capable of handling a larger load. Maybe New Orleans has its eyes on another RB in the draft who they feel could be a better alternative to Ingram.
Regardless, Ingram is clearly not the team’s long-term solution.
Now that other organizations are aware of the Saints’ intentions, rumors could very well start circulating around Ingram. Given the circumstances, using him as trade bait might be an option that New Orleans is willing to weigh. They can either get something for him now or let him walk away a free agent. If he does remain a Saint, a career season will be the only way he returns in 2015.