Mark Ingram

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.

Saints Announce Roster Moves

The Saints have made the following transactions as they move their roster to 53 players:

Waived:

Waived/injured:

Released:

Placed on injured reserve:

Placed on suspended list:

Saints Notes: Ingram, Davenport, Koo

Running back Mark Ingram is back at Saints practice after skipping organized team activities in May, tweets Nick Underhill of the Advocate. Ingram’s presence doesn’t come as a surprise, as he indicated late last month that he’d been in attendance for mandatory minicamp. A free agent at the end of the 2018 season, Ingram will begin the campaign by serving a four-game performance-enhancing drug suspension. New Orleans figures to hand a full workload to second-year running back Alvin Kamara, although the club is scheduled to audition veteran runners Jamaal Charles and Terrance West this week.

Here’s more on the Saints:

  • Rookie defensive end Marcus Davenport will undergo thumb surgery on a minor injury, but is expected to return in time for training camp, as Underhill writes in a full piece. Davenport will wait until after minicamp to have the operation, so he’s unlikely to miss any practice sessions. The Saints sacrificed a great deal of draft capital in order to land Davenport, trading two first-round selections and a fifth-rounder for the right to move up to pick No. 14. While Davenport’s injury seems negligible, New Orleans should have enough defensive end depth if he does end up missing significant action, as Alex Okafor (recovering from his own injury), Trey Hendrickson, and George Johnson, among others, are available.
  • In addition to Charles and West, the Saints plan to work out a number of players during their minicamp, including kicker Younghoe Koo (Twitter link via Larry Holder of NOLA.com); wide receiver Kevin Snead, tight end Jack Tabb, punter Jonathan Hernandez, and offensive lineman Trevor Darling (Twitter links via Josh Katzenstein of NOLA.com); and wide receiver Josh Smith (Twitter link via Underhill). Of the group, Koo is the only member with NFL experience, as he spent four games as the Chargers’ kicker in 2017 before being waived.
  • In case you missed it, the Saints were one of five teams to use a post-June 1 release designation, meaning they were able to free up $3MM in cap space on June 1 as a result of tight end Coby Fleener‘s release.

Saints’ Mark Ingram Reports To Minicamp

Saints running back Mark Ingram has stayed away from the team so far this offseason has he angles for a new contract. However, he plans on being in attendance for the team’s mandatory minicamp in mid-June, according to coach Sean Payton (via Josh Katzenstein of the Times-Picayune). 

Offseason Team Activities (OTAs) are voluntary and some players choose not to attend, whether it be because of contract issues or personal preference. In Ingram’s case, he is sitting out OTAs to try and push the Saints to give him a new contract. A holdout during mandatory minicamp would be costly, so it only makes sense for Ingram to report to New Orleans in June.

In light of Ingram’s four-game PED suspension to start the year, it seems unlikely that the Saints will give him a new deal right now. His best bet might be to perform at a high level starting in Week 5 to compel the team to give him an extension, but the Saints may only be willing to go so far with young star Alvin Kamara and a cast of quality backups in the mix. The Saints were also open to dealing Ingram this offseason, though a pre-Halloween midseason trade could be a possibility.

Last year, Ingram posted career-highs in carries (230), yards (1,124), rushing touchdowns (12), and receptions (58). He’ll turn 29 in December.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Sean Payton Discusses Ingram, Fleener, Barrett

The Saints have had a relatively busy offseason, but things have seemingly ramped up for the organization over the past few weeks. After making seven selections during last month’s draft, New Orleans subsequently made headlines for several reasons.

The team released veteran tight end Coby Fleener, who had spent two seasons with the organization (including a 2016 campaign where he hauled in 50 receptions). We later learned that running back Mark Ingram had been hit with a four-game suspension, and reports later indicated that the former first-rounder would be skipping the offseason program.

Clearly, it’s been a busy couple of weeks for the Saints. Coach Sean Payton recently discussed these subjects, and he also touched on some of his rookies and tryout players. NewOrleansSaints.com has the entire interview, but we’ve highlighted some of the notable soundbites below:

On Mark Ingram’s four-game suspension:

“It happens in our league. We receive the same notice when him and his agent are receiving the notice and you deal with it. It goes under PED’s but I know Mark well enough to know it wasn’t a performing enhancing drug. He’ll better be able to explain the other parts of it, but it happened with Willie (Snead when he was suspended) last year, so you adjust like it would be an injury.”

On Ingram’s absence from OTAs:

“No. Listen, we spoke a couple times before the offseason program started, and it is what it is. He’ll know what to do. Now do I think he should be here? Yes, but it’s optional and we’ll see him at the minicamp.”

On the decision to release tight end Coby Fleener, and whether the team had planned the transaction earlier this offseason:

“Well, I don’t know that I would say that. He’s still working through the process of getting cleared and he’s still working through being without symptoms, but I also felt like for the team it was something that was going to be best for us.”

On what the team looks for in their quarterbacks (the Saints are currently rostering undrafted rookie (and former Ohio State product) J.T. Barrett):

“How accurate is he? Does he complete passes in time? Does he get through his progressions? How quickly does he learn? Can he get to the huddle and call the play? Can he handle the cadence? His ability to ingest, process and go ahead and take it to the field.

“There is a leadership presence about [Barrett]. He is in an athlete. He has played a lot of competitive football and he has handled this camp very well. (He has) A lot of the things that you look for in that position. He was certainly worthy of being drafted and he has done a good job here.”

On what the team looks for in “veteran trial” players (NFL teams are allowed to audition up to five of these players):

“We have a vision for them. What kind of shape they are in? They have played so what do we think they can do to help us. We have (veteran tryout players at) a handful of positions, but we have had players (that we’ve signed). Billy Miller found his way onto the roster that way. So it is really about how quickly they’re getting up to speed, the same evaluation that is taking place with the rest of the players.”

Mark Ingram To Skip Saints’ OTAs

Mark Ingram‘s been a key name in this week’s NFL news cycle. From being potentially on the trade block, to being suspended for four games and seeing his appeal denied, the eighth-year Saints running back has enjoyed an eventful few days.

Now, Sean Payton is confirming the 28-year-old back will not be training with the Saints during the voluntary portion of their offseason. Ingram will skip OTAs and train on his own in Florida, a decision his head coach is questioning.

He and I spoke, so it wasn’t a surprise to us that he’s not here,” Payton said, via Mike Triplett of ESPN.com. “I don’t agree with it. But it is optional, and that’s his choice.”

Triplett adds this does not appear to be related to Ingram’s suspension, which would not prohibit him working out with the Saints until the regular season begins.

Ingram is entering a contract year but will miss the first four games of it. The presence of Alvin Kamara, Ingram’s age and this suspension will make the prospect of an extension more difficult to envision this offseason. Ingram signed a four-year, $16MM deal in 2015.

Coming off the best two seasons of his career, each featuring 1,000-plus rushing yards, Ingram changed agents last month. And for the better part of the next month, he won’t be working out with Kamara and the other Saints running backs.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Appeal Denied For Saints RB Mark Ingram

On Wednesday morning, Mark Ingram‘s representatives issued a statement to dispute the league’s claim that he violated the policy on performance-enhancing drugs. Apparently, the case has already been open and shut. Ingram’s appeal has already been heard and denied, Josh Katzenstein of the Times-Picayune tweets. At this point, Ingram’s reps are just waiting for the full written decision from the arbitrator. 

[RELATED: Did Saints Consider Trading Ingram This Offseason?]

Ingram’s camp argued that the test results were somehow illegitimate while also noting that the substance in question “permissible with the proper use exemption with the NFL.” Of course, without the exemption, Ingram would still be in violation of league rules for having that substance in his system. Ingram’s fight may not be over, however, as the statement from his agents indicated that he would “explore what further options are needed” after reviewing the ruling.

Ingram is slated to miss the first four games of the season, but luckily for the Saints, it’s a relatively soft portion of the schedule with the Buccaneers, Browns, Falcons, and Giants on deck. They will lean a bit more heavily on Alvin Kamara to carry the ball, though they may take a closer look at veteran options to hold them over for the first month of the season.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Saints’ Mark Ingram To Fight Suspension

[UPDATE: Ingram’s appeal has already been heard and denied. However, it sounds like his camp may explore further options to fight the ban.]

Saints running back Mark Ingram will fight his four-game suspension, according to a press release from his agents. Ingram, it seems, will argue against the validity of the test results.

At the end of the 2017 season, as a result of a NFL mandated random drug test, Mark Ingram tested positive for a substance that was not a performance enhancing substance, nor an illegal substance, but a substance in fact permissible with the proper use exemption with the NFL,” the statement reads. “He has vigorously challenged the test results through the arbitration process. The arbitrator’s opinion is due on or before Wednesday, May 16. Upon having the opportunity to review the arbitrator’s opinion, we will explore what further options are needed.”

Ingram’s reps also note that the substance in question is permitted to be used by players with a thereputic use exemption, but it doesn’t seem that Ingram had a TUE for whatever it was. The real crux of their case will come down to their challenge of the test results. In the past, players have questioned the handling of samples as well as the methods for testing.

For now, Ingram is scheduled to miss games against the Buccaneers and Browns and road contests against the Falcons and Giants. If the ruling stands, he will not play until Week 5 against the Redskins.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Saints Open To Trading Mark Ingram?

The Saints “may” have been shopping running back Mark Ingram this offseason, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (on Twitter) hears. The Saints may have to wait a bit to trade Ingram following his four-game suspension for PEDs, but it sounds like they could explore a deal once he is cleared to play. 

Rapoport hears that Ingram has been staying away from team in order to push for new deal. He is still after a new contract as he heads into his walk year, despite the ban, which he and his new representatives have been aware of for weeks.

Ingram was largely overshadowed by rising star Alvin Kamara last year, but he still turned in a solid season with new career highs in all major categories. Ingram also ranked seventh in Football Outsiders‘ DVOA, meaning he was effective on a per-play basis, and also finished as a top-15 pass-blocker among running backs, per Pro Football Focus.

Considering that Ingram is a 29-year-old running back who is entering a contract year and won’t be available to play for the first month of the season, there probably won’t be much of a market for his services. However, their reluctance to give him a new deal and willingness to trade him probably means that there won’t be a long-term future for him in New Orleans.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.