Mark Ingram

Contract Details: Ingram, Suggs, Kendricks

Here are the latest details from some agreed-upon contracts during the second wave of free agency. All links courtesy of the Houston Chronicle’s Aaron Wilson, unless otherwise noted.

Ravens To Sign Mark Ingram

The Ravens will sign running back Mark Ingram, as Adam Schefter of ESPN.com tweets. When finalized, it’ll be a three-year, $15MM pact.

Ingram was displaced this week when the Saints agreed to sign Latavius Murray. Murray will now serve as the backup to Alvin Kamara while Ingram will move on to Baltimore, where he’ll part of a rotation likely to include Gus Edwards and Kenneth Dixon. Ingram’s move to the Ravens will likely decrease the chances that fellow running back Javorius Allen — a free agent — returns to Baltimore.

Ingram, 29, served a four-game suspension to begin the 2018 campaign, but was highly effective once he returned to the field. On 138 carries, Ingram rushed for 638 yards and scored six touchdowns, while he also chipped in 21 catches, 170 yards, and a score in the passing game.

Ingram’s efficiency was off the charts, as he ranked third in Football Outsiders‘ success rate, meaning he was excellent at keeping the Saints’ offense on schedule with regard to down and distance. Meanwhile, Pro Football Focus assigned Ingram a 75.7 grade in pass-blocking, placing him among the best at his position.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Ravens Frontrunners For Mark Ingram

New Orleans signing running back Latavius Murray seemed to signal the end of the Mark Ingram era in New Orleans. But the longtime Saints running back might not be on the open market very long.

The Ravens have emerged as the “frontrunner” for Ingram’s services, according to Josh Katzenstein of The New Orleans Times-Picayune (Twitter link). Ingram has been with the Saints ever since New Orleans took him in the first round back in 2011. The former Heisman Trophy winner is 29 now, but his play hasn’t dipped much.

He averaged a robust 4.7 yards per carry this past season, which was actually his lowest total in the last three years. He was suspended for the first four games of the season for using PEDs, but came back as his reliable self for the final 12.ecause Ingram has always split time in a committee with the Saints, he doesn’t have as much tread on his tires as your typical 29-year-old running back. The Saints apparently want to get Alvin Kamara more touches, and don’t want to pay Ingram the salary he’s seeking.

Ingram was making around $4MM annually on his most recent contract, and seems to be looking for a raise. The Ravens have also been linked to Le’Veon Bell recently, and signing Ingram would presumably remove them from those sweepstakes. Whoever the Ravens end up signing is likely to see a heavy workload, as Baltimore has transitioned to the league’s most run-heavy offense with Lamar Jackson.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Saints To Sign Latavius Murray

Alvin Kamara has a new understudy. The Saints have agreed to sign former Vikings running back Latavius Murray, according to Adam Schefter of ESPN.com (Twitter links). It’s a four-year, $14.4MM deal, Schefter adds. 

Murray, 29, averaged 4.1 yards per carry last season, his best average since his rookie season with the Raiders. He no longer profiles as a top-end starter, but he could be a phenomenal fit as Kamara’s safety net and change of pace complement.

This time last year, Murray reworked his contract in order to stay with the Vikings. Initially, Murray was set to play out a three-year, $15MM deal through the 2019 season. But, in exchange for accepting a reduced base salary, the Vikings eliminated the ’19 season from his contract.

The unexpected signing likely means that Mark Ingram will not return to New Orleans. The Saints wanted to retain the veteran, but they were also unwilling to give him much more than the $4MM they paid him in 2018. Ingram became a two-time Pro Bowler and enjoyed his best season in 2017 when he amassed 1,540 yards from scrimmage and scored 12 touchdowns. Last year, he only rushed for 645 yards, but he averaged 4.7 per carry.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Free Agency Notes: Foles, Jaguars, Saints

Nick Foles is going to be a Jaguar. The Super Bowl MVP agreed to terms on a four-year deal with the Jaguars, with a base value of $88MM. While Foles cashed in, he didn’t have much of a choice on where to go. There were “no significant other suitors” for Foles’ services on the open market, according to Mike Garafolo of NFL Network (Twitter link). In the video posted to his account. Garafolo explains that Jacksonville was essentially bidding against themselves, but didn’t mind overpaying.

Garafolo reports the Jaguars wanted to pay Foles more than they had to, so that he would have the immediate credibility in the locker room of being the unquestioned starter. The Jags thought it would’ve sent the wrong message if they had lowballed Foles and tried to pay him something in the $15MM range, and that it would’ve diminished Foles’ standing. Having Foles being able to step in and manage all the large personalities in their locker room is very important to the team, Garafolo notes.

Here’s more from around the league on a very busy first day of free agency:

  • Broncos cornerback Bradley Roby is “getting a lot of interest” from teams, according to James Palmer of NFL Network (Twitter link). Palmer reports that the competition for Roby seems to have narrowed down to the Texans, Browns, Steelers, 49ers, Raiders and Broncos. Everything we’ve heard recently has indicated Roby will be walking in free agency, so it would be a bit of a surprise if he returned to Denver. A 2014 first round pick, Roby has been a solid player but has never quite lived up to his draft status. He started 15 games for the Broncos last year.
  • Texans defensive lineman Christian Covington isn’t ruling out a return to Houston, but the team plans to let him test the open market, according to Aaron Wilson of The Houston Chronicle. Wilson reports that Covington is expected to have a “healthy market” in free agency. Covington has been a bit player for the Texans the past four seasons, but did have a career-high 3.5 sacks in relatively limited action last season.
  • The Saints are “still hoping” to retain Mark Ingram, but they aren’t going to break the bank to do it, according to Dan Graziano of ESPN.com. Graziano writes the Saints won’t be willing to pay much more than the $4MM they gave Ingram last season. A split could make sense for both sides if Ingram is looking for a raise and New Orleans is looking to give Alvin Kamara even more touches.

NFC Notes: Saints, Giants, Eagles, Cowboys

The Saints have had a relatively quiet offseason ever since their season ended in devastating fashion in the NFC Championship game. That’s about to change though, as they have several big decisions to make in the coming days and weeks. Mark Ingram is set to be a free agent, and there’s been a lot of talk that the Saints might move on and choose to give Alvin Kamara more of a featured role. Ingram “wants nothing more than to strike a deal to stay in New Orleans,” writes Larry Holder of The Athletic. Holder also writes that head coach Sean Payton wants to keep him around. Holder points out that Ingram doesn’t have the typical wear and tear a 30-year-old running back usually has, because he’s usually split time in whatever backfield the Saints have put together throughout his career.

The Saints also lacked consistent options in the passing game beyond Michael Thomas last year, and could be looking to add a receiver. Sources told Holder that “Someone like Adam Humphries intrigues the Saints.” Holder thinks Humphries might get priced out of their range though, and that New Orleans might end up turning to the draft to add receiver help. Multiple sources also told Holder the Saints aren’t interested in adding Antonio Brown.

Here’s more from around the NFC:

  • There’s been a ton of discussion about the Giants’ quarterback situation, but not a lot has been written about Kyle Lauletta. Lauletta was the Giants’ highly-touted fourth round pick last year, but was relegated to third-string duties behind Manning and Alex Tanney for much of the season. The Giants re-signed Tanney earlier today, which could bode poorly for Lauletta. Lauletta also underwent knee surgery this offseason, sources told Ryan Dunleavy of NJ.com. Dunleavy isn’t bullish on Lauletta’s future with the team, and writes that he’s already shown he isn’t “capable of challenging Manning.” Lauletta only attempted five passes this past year, completing zero and throwing an interception. With the Giants a definitely possibility to draft a quarterback high in this April’s draft, Lauletta could prove to be a one-and-done in the Big Apple.
  •  The Eagles extended guard Isaac Seumalo earlier today, and they might not be done locking up offensive linemen. The “expectation” is that Philly “will attempt to extend OL Halapoulivaati Vaitai this offseason”, according to Jeff McLane of the Philadelphia Inquirer (Twitter link). Vaitai was the Eagles’ fifth round pick in 2016, and has been a backup tackle for them ever since. In 2017, he filled in for Jason Peters at left tackle and started the entire second half of the season plus the playoffs. Peters is 37 now, and his status for 2019 is still unclear. It’s very possible that the Eagles view Vaitai as the successor to Peters on Carson Wentz‘s blindside.
  • “When the 2018 season ended there was an expectation that Sean Lee would not return to Dallas,” writes Calvin Watkins of The Athletic. But now things appear to be shifting in the direction of the veteran linebacker returning for one more season in a reduced role, Watkins notes. Lee wants to play again and is willing to accept less playing time, according to Watkins, and Cowboys EVP Stephen Jones sounded open to the idea of bringing him back. “When he has played, he has played really well. He’s had a big impact on our football team, not only what he’s doing on the field, but off the field with his leadership,” Jones said. In the same piece, Watkins also took a look at the looming contract negotiations between Dallas and Ezekiel Elliott. Watkins thinks that Elliott “will probably get at least $50 million guaranteed”, topping the $45MM guaranteed Todd Gurley received from the Rams.

Mark Ingram Wants To Stay With Saints

Mark Ingram is either one or two games from free agency, but he would prefer the Saints keep him off the market.

The late-blooming NFL standout experienced a tumultuous 2018, from being denied the chance to be a free agent last year to drawing a four-game suspension and skipping part of New Orleans’ offseason program. But he wants to stick around as Alvin Kamara‘s backfield complement.

I was drafted here. I met my wife here. My children were born here,” Ingram said (Twitter link via Josh Katzenstein of the Times-Picayune). “I’m not looking just to up and leave New Orleans. My squad, you know we got a good squad. I feel like we could do this type of thing for many more years. I’m not looking to just to bail out of New Orleans.”

After struggling to live up to his first-round billing during his first three seasons in New Orleans, Ingram broke out in 2014 and soon re-signed on what became a team-friendly, four-year, $16MM deal. He became a two-time Pro Bowler and enjoyed his best season in 2017 — when he (1,540 yards from scrimmage, 12 touchdowns) and Kamara became the first running back teammates to each surpass 1,500 scrimmage yards in a season.

Sean Payton immediately reinstalled Ingram as a key Saints contributor upon returning from suspension this season. Ingram only rushed for 645 yards this season, but he averaged 4.7 per carry — just shy of his 4.9 mark last season — and will continue to play a key role going into the NFC championship game.

Of course, the Saints may not be willing to pay Ingram as much as another team would. He is wrapping up his eighth season and will be 30 by the time 2019 is over, and the Saints stand to hold barely $17MM in cap space. Katzenstein previously pegged Ingram’s chances of being back next season at less than 50 percent. If Ingram hits the market, he stands to join Le’Veon Bell and Tevin Coleman as its big names south of 30.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Extra Points: Referee, Saints, Ingram, Colts, Receivers

A strange incident happened last week when Bills defensive end Jerry Hughes got into an altercation with an official. Hughes accused the official of cursing at him, which provoked his response. The NFL launched an investigation, and fined Hughes a hefty $53,482. The league placed the official, Roy Ellison, on administrative leave. Apparently the investigation remains open, as Ellison will not officiate a game this Sunday, according to Tom Pelissero of NFL Network (Twitter link).

The situation is relatively unprecedented, and it will be fascinating to see what the league does. The NFL already has drawn the ire of the referees union by making the rare move of firing an official in-season earlier this year, so what they decide to do with Ellison could cause major headaches.

Here’s more from around the league:

  • The odds that Mark Ingram is a member of the Saints beyond this season are not high, according to Josh Katzenstein of NOLA.com. Katzenstein thinks there’s a roughly one in three chance that Ingram is back next year, and writes “it’s sensible business not to pay an aging running back when there’s a young stud already on the roster”, meaning Alvin Kamara. Katzenstein thinks Ingram’s four game suspension to start the year also hurt his relationship with the team, and the Saints will look for a cheaper option next year to split time with Kamara.
  • The Colts will make major moves at wide receiver this offseason, predicts Stephen Holder of The Athletic. Holder points out the team has very little at receiver for 2019 behind T.Y. Hilton, and that the “unit is mostly a bare cupboard” for next year. Holder notes that the lack of playmakers behind Hilton was made very noticeable in their shutout loss to the Jaguars last year, and GM Chris Ballard will surely be working hard this offseason to acquire a number two option, either through free agency or the draft.
  • In case you missed it, breakout Bengals receiver Tyler Boyd is open to signing an extension with Cincinnati.

Saints To Cut RB Mike Gillislee

The Saints cycled through a few running backs between the time Mark Ingram‘s suspension was announced and his impending return, but with Ingram on his way back, New Orleans’ backfield situation has the kind of clarity it did last season.

As such, less depth is required. The Saints will release Mike Gillislee to make room for an Ingram activation, Josh Katzenstein of NOLA.com tweets.

Gillislee received the most handoffs of any non-Alvin Kamara Saints back this season, taking 16. He gained just 43 yards on those plays, however, averaging 2.7 yards per carry. New Orleans added Gillislee just before the season but now has Dwayne Washington in place behind Kamara and Ingram. Gillislee also lost a fumble during his Saints stay.

New Orleans has employed Gillislee, Washington, Terrance West, Shane Vereen and Jonathan Williams during Ingram’s suspension. Kamara has handled most of the work, as expected. He’s gained 611 yards from scrimmage and scored six touchdowns in four games. Ingram and Kamara in 2017 became the first backfield teammates in NFL history to each surpass 1,500 yards from scrimmage in a season.

The Patriots released Gillislee prior to the season opener.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Ingram, Edelman To Return In Week 5

As we approach Week 5 of the NFL season, several NFL players are returning from four-game bans. As noted by Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (on Twitter), that list includes notables such as Saints running back Mark Ingram, Patriots wide receiver Julian Edelman, Bengals linebacker Vontaze Burfict, Cowboys defensive tackle David Irving, Chargers defensive tackle Corey Liuget, Colts running back Robert Turbin, Raiders cornerback Daryl Worley, Ravens cornerback Jimmy Smith

Players do not count against a team’s roster max while suspended, so clubs will have to make room for these players before adding them for Week 5. There will be some tough decisions to make, but the upside is clear in most of these cases, particularly when it comes to offensive weapons like Ingram and Edelman or defensive pillars like Burfict and Irving.

Alvin Kamara should remain the focal point of the Saints’ running game, but the return of Ingram will give opposing defenses something else to think about. And, as we saw in the first three weeks of the Patriots’ season, Edelman has been sorely missed.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.