It looks like the New Orleans Saints have decided not to exercise the fifth-year option on running back Mark Ingram. As a result of the new collective bargaining agreement, rookies are required to sign four-year contracts and teams are given the choice to keep them around for a fifth year. 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 his standards 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 play. Ingram certainly has the ability to excel as a feature back in the right type of ground and pound system. However, he will need to average 20-30 carries per game to do so. Don’t hold your breath; 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 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 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; 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 it’s eyes on another running back in the draft that they feel could be a better alternative to Ingram, maybe not. Regardless, he is clearly not the long-term option.
Now that teams are aware of the Saints’ intentions, rumors are likely to float around leading up to next Thursday. Using him as trade bait would be a wise choice and should be considered. It’s either get something for him now or let him walk away a free agent. There is a chance that Mark Ingram could be switching colors next weekend, for the right price.