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Mark Ingram: Can the Saints Win the Free Agent Sweepstakes?

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As we all know, New Orleans Saints running back Mark Ingram is set to hit the free agent market in March.  There will certainly be some competition in a sweepstakes where the highest bidder is the likely victor.

The former Alabama standout and Heisman Trophy winner finally broke out of his cage for the Black and Gold in 2014, becoming the club’s top rusher in a single season since Deuce McAllister in 2006.

In 13 games played, Ingram rushed for 946 yards and nine touchdowns on 226 attempts, earning his first Pro Bowl appearance. If it weren’t for a hand injury he suffered against the Cleveland Browns that forced his absence from three contests, he would have surpassed the 1,000-yard mark with ease.

Mark Ingram’s presence was crucial in 2014, helping lead his offense to the No. 1 overall spot in the NFL.  He is tough, physical, runs with fury and has the ability to leave you flattened out on the turf like a cartoon character.

It took some time for No. 22 to come to life — his ground-and-pound style really surfaced this year after the Saints decided to utilize him the proper way.  Before his 226 carries in 2014, Ingram had just 356 during his first three years combined in the Big Easy.

The free agent period begins March 10, and it’s up to New Orleans to decide whether or not resigning Ingram will be the top priority this offseason.  It’s presumed that a number of teams have their eye on him, the Dallas Cowboys being the most recent club rumored.  Jerry Jones may be willing to pass on the resigning of NFL-leading rusher DeMarco Murray and sign someone more affordable like Ingram.

The Saints have already recognized the situation by expressing their interest in preserving their leading rusher’s talents in the Crescent City, and the running back is well-aware of that.  It’s up to general manager Mickey Loomis to get the team under the cap to financially accommodate Mark Ingram while also renovating the defense via the free agent market.

New Orleans is currently sporting a cap burden around $167 million, which should ease up in February, according to the Saints’ GM.  While the NFL has yet to release the salary cap for 2015, it is estimated to come in between $140 million and $145 million, so Loomis, Coach Sean Payton and the front offices have some serious decision making on the agenda.

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