The Saints and Alvin Kamara have begun work on a longer-term partnership. The sides are now negotiating an extension to keep the dynamic running back in New Orleans beyond 2020, Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com reports (video link).
Nothing is yet imminent, but the Saints have made an offer, Fowler adds. Kamara’s rookie contract has one season remaining, putting him in a similar boat with other talented running backs from the 2017 draft class.
As several 2017 running back draftees either cash in (Christian McCaffrey) or began contract talks earlier (Dalvin Cook, Aaron Jones, Joe Mixon), not much has transpired on the Kamara front this offseason. But the three-down back said earlier this year he wants to stay with the Saints.
Kamara’s timeline parallels Michael Thomas‘ from 2019. The former second-round pick-turned-star was going into his walk year but reached an agreement on a then-record wide receiver deal during Saints training camp last year. Kamara’s situation is a bit more complicated. Recent monster running back contracts have not exactly benefited teams, and the salary cap is expected to drop for just the second time ever. But it’s clear the Saints would prefer Kamara not play this season on his third-round rookie deal.
Beginning his career in the Reggie Bush/Darren Sproles role in Sean Payton‘s offense, Kamara quickly became more than a complementary piece. He and Mark Ingram became the first running back teammates to each surpass 1,500 yards from scrimmage in a season in 2017, and Kamara eclipsed 1,500 scrimmage yards again in 2018 — when he scored 18 touchdowns. Since 2017, Kamara’s 4,476 scrimmage yards rank fifth in the NFL.
While Kamara probably will not top McCaffrey’s $16MM-AAV deal and may not get to the Ezekiel Elliott price point ($15MM per year), the Saints will certainly have to make him one of the league’s highest-paid backs to retain him. How the Kamara, Cook, Mixon and Jones talks proceed will bring more clarity to how teams view running backs as the 2020s begin.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.