Alvin Kamara

Saints Restructure Alvin Kamara’s Deal

The Saints have restructured Alvin Kamara‘s contract (Twitter link via Field Yates of ESPN.com). The revision will shift $10.465MM of the running back’s 2022 salary into a signing bonus, carving out another $8.372MM in cap space for New Orleans. Per Katherine Terrell of ESPN.com (via Twitter), the club also tacked on a void year to the end of Kamara’s deal.

[RELATED: Saints Re-Sign Granderson]

It’s another step forward for the cap-crunched Saints, who previously reworked the deals of defensive ends Cameron Jordan and Tanoh Kpassagnon. All together, that’s another $22MM in breathing room for New Orleans, though they still have roughly $10MM to go between now and the start of the league year.

Kamara led the NFL with 21 touchdowns in 2020, helping the Saints stay afloat while Michael Thomas was out. Last year, as Thomas missed the entire year, Kamara’s production slipped. In 13 games, Kamara rushed for just 898 yards and four touchdowns off of 240 carries, resulting in a career-low 3.7 yards per tote average. He also added 47 catches for 439 yards and five touchdowns — a significant drop from his past four years.

The Saints still have some more cap magic on the agenda, as well as a potential long-term deal for standout safety Marcus Williams. They’re also said to be interested in big-ticket free agent Tyrann Mathieu, but it’s not clear if they’ll be able to afford him.

AFC Notes: Raiders, Chiefs, Dupree, Weddle

First-round draft pick Alex Leatherwood had an up-and-down rookie season in Las Vegas. After struggling a bit at right tackle, Leatherwood was moved to guard to fill in after injuries to starters Richie Incognito and Denzelle Good. According to Vic Tafur of The Athletic, the Raiders’ former staff intended to move Leatherwood back to his drafted position next season.

The decision is now out of their hands and in the hands of new offensive line coach Carmen Bricillo. With Kolton Miller set at left tackle and Andre James filling in admirably this season with the loss of center Rodney Hudson in a trade to the Cardinals last year, the Raiders have three offensive line spots with which to play around. Bricillo’s placement of Leatherwood will likely depend on how they choose to address those open positions.

Here are a few more notes from around the AFC, starting with another note from the West:

Saints’ Alvin Kamara To Miss Week 13

Alvin Kamara managed three limited practices for the Saints this week, but the Pro Bowl running back is not set to return for Thursday night’s game against the Cowboys.

The Saints are planning to rule out Kamara and tackles Terron Armstead and Ryan Ramczyk for another game, Ian Rapoport and Jane Slater of NFL.com note (on Twitter). This will be Kamara’s fourth straight absence.

New Orleans did not put Kamara on IR, keeping him on its active roster in hopes he would not need a three-week absence. The knee injury the fifth-year back suffered in early November, however, has resulted in by far the longest absence of his career. Prior to being held out of the Saints’ Week 10 game, Kamara had only missed four games in four seasons.

Without Kamara, the Saints are 0-3 this season. They have lost four consecutive games. Although Taysom Hill is in line to replace Trevor Siemian as the Saints’ starter, the dual-threat quarterback will be without essential personnel against the Cowboys. Armstead and Ramczyk, who have formed a top-tier tackle tandem since 2017, are also battling knee injuries. Armstead is a free agent at season’s end, while the Saints have locked up Ramczyk and Kamara long-term.

Kamara led the NFL with 21 touchdowns last season, helping the Saints stay in gear despite Michael Thomas missing extensive time. Thomas will not play at all this season, and after Kamara’s 840 scrimmage yards had him on pace to set a new career-high, the latter Saints playmaker will fall well short of that mark this season. Although Drew Brees‘ retirement was going to make an impact regardless, injuries have limited the Saints considerably this season. They rank 18th in scoring offense and are looking likely to finish outside the top 10 in points for the first time since 2010.

Saints’ Alvin Kamara To Miss Week 10

Alvin Kamara will miss his first game this season. The Saints will hold their top skill-position player out against the Titans because of a knee sprain.

The fifth-year running back has not been especially injury-prone during his career, having missed just four games in four-plus seasons. But Kamara has missed at least one contest in each of the past three years.

New Orleans reacquiring Mark Ingram via trade looms larger now. Ingram has played around 30% of the Saints’ offensive snaps in his two games back with the team and has logged 15 carries in that span. The 11th-year veteran is also on track to break the team’s career rushing record, a mark Deuce McAllister holds with 6,096 yards, in Tennessee. Ingram is 20 yards away from eclipsing McAllister’s Saints standard.

Kamara, whose 21 touchdowns led the NFL last season, is 4-for-4 in Pro Bowls. Kamara’s 840 scrimmage yards through eight games had him on track for a career-best number here, though his absence this week will affect that pace.

This injury news will certainly sting a Saints team that is set to start Trevor Siemian for a second straight week and one that is missing Michael Thomas. The sixth-year wideout is out for the season. New Orleans was among the many teams that failed in a bid to sign Odell Beckham Jr. this week.

Saints To Release RB Latavius Murray

The Saints are set to have a new backup running back. They are releasing Latavius Murray, Adam Schefter of ESPN.com tweets, adding that the veteran refused a pay cut Monday.

While this strips the Saints of another proven weapon, it will give other teams in need at running back an interesting option ahead of Week 1. Murray spent the past two seasons working as Alvin Kamara‘s backup. He saw extensive time during that stretch, surpassing 600 rushing yards in each season.

Murray agreed to a four-year, $14.4MM deal with New Orleans in 2019, coming over from Minnesota to replace Mark Ingram as Kamara’s between-the-tackles sidekick. The team’s pay-cut request certainly came at a late juncture; Murray, 31, was set to make $2.95MM in base salary this season.

Missing just one game during his two-year Saints stay, Murray totaled 1,293 rushing yards with the team. He scored 11 touchdowns as a Saint, filling in for an injured Kamara for short stretches in both seasons, and provided a smooth transition from Ingram. The Saints have fourth-year back Dwayne Washington and second-year UDFA Tony Jones Jr. as their active-roster backs behind Kamara. The latter appears the better bet to take over as Kamara’s primary backup. A Notre Dame product, Jones has three career carries but impressed this summer.

Saints Facing COVID-19 Discipline

The Saints are facing discipline from the league office for violating COVID-19 safety policies, according to NFL.com’s Tom Pelissero and Ian Rapoport. This marks the third such violation for Sean Payton & Co., so the punishment is likely to be even larger. 

Between the two previous penalties, the Saints have already been docked $750K plus the forfeiture of a seventh-round pick. First, there was the lack of mask-wearing in Week 2. Then, the Saints were seen celebrating sans face coverings again in Week 9. The latest flag stems from a late-season incident in which running back Alvin Kamara came in contact with a COVID-19 positive person at the team facility. That person was not employed by the Saints, even though non-team personnel have been barred from entering this season.

When Kamara contracted the coronavirus, the timing couldn’t have been worse. In Week 16 against the Vikings, he registered six touchdowns on the ground, matching a 91-year-old record. Forced out of the season finale, Kamara still finished the year with an NFL-high 21 TDs. Meanwhile, several other Saints RBs were forced out of Week 17, putting increased attention on the Saints and their protocols.

Interestingly, Kamara himself was not an innocent party in this. According to Jeff Duncan of The Athletic, Kamara’s refusal to wear a contract-tracing device was a problem all season, so the club had no way to trace his close contacts after he tested positive (Twitter link). The league’s investigation into the latest alleged violation could presumably lead to discipline for Kamara as well as the Saints.

The Saints project to have four, or possibly five, selections in the 2021 draft. Currently, they have only their first-, second-, and fourth-round picks. However, they are slated receive a pair of third-round compensatory picks for hiring Terry Fontenot and losing Teddy Bridgewater. In the coming days, the Saints could wind up losing more from their stockpile, though as Mike Triplett of ESPN.com tweets, they are confident that Kamara did not contract COVID-19 from contact with anyone inside the team facility (though that might not really matter, as the mere presence of non-team personnel is a protocol violation).

Triplett goes on to say that New Orleans has not yet been notified of any further discipline, and that the club would appeal any such discipline if the NFL imposes it (Twitter link).

Michael Thomas, Alvin Kamara To Return

Drew Brees will have his top weapons back. The Saints activated both Alvin Kamara and Michael Thomas on Saturday.

Thomas missed the Saints final three regular-season games, going on IR before Week 15 because of a troublesome ankle injury. Kamara is back after contracting COVID-19 last week. The All-Pro running back will end up missing just one game.

The Saints shut down Thomas in hopes he could recover from an injury that has bothered him for months. Thomas suffered a high ankle sprain in Week 1, costing him early-season time. That began a complicated season for the perennial Pro Bowler. The Saints handed Thomas a one-game suspension for striking a teammate and then saw him run into a hamstring injury in practice. Altogether, the fifth-year standout missed nine games this season.

Entering 2020, Thomas had missed just two contests. He finished the regular season with with just 40 catches for 438 yards and no touchdowns but will have a chance to end the season on a more positive note.

Kamara contracted the coronavirus shortly after his record-tying Christmas Day performance. Despite not playing in Week 17, the fourth-year running back finished the season with a league-high 21 touchdowns — six of which coming against the Vikings in Kamara’s most recent outing.

New Orleans has been without key cogs throughout the season, losing Brees and Emmanuel Sanders at points as well. Ahead of what could be Brees’ final postseason run, the Saints will have their top guns in uniform.

Alvin Kamara Tests Positive For COVID-19

A week after his record-tying Christmas Day performance, Alvin Kamara faces the prospect of missing the Saints’ playoff opener.

The star running back tested positive for COVID-19 Friday, according to Nick Underhill of NewOrleans.football (on Twitter). Kamara took another test, and it came back positive, according to Adam Schefter of ESPN.com (on Twitter). Kamara did not practice Friday.

Kamara is not symptomatic, according to Underhill (on Twitter). The Saints went to the playoffs in each of Kamara’s first three seasons; he did not miss any of those games. The former third-round pick has only missed three regular-season games in his career.

Should Kamara remain asymptomatic, he will be cleared to play in New Orleans’ first playoff game — should that game occur on Sunday, Jan. 10, Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com tweets. The NFL has a new playoff schedule this year; three wild-card games will occur on Saturday and Sunday. Should the league slot the Saints as a Sunday team — if, in fact, they do not obtain the No. 1 seed — Kamara has a chance to play.

The Saints have a chance at home-field advantage in the NFC, which becomes more important now. The Saints have won one road playoff game in franchise history, but securing the bye now would limit the chances Kamara misses a postseason game. A three-way tie atop the conference between the Saints, Packers and Seahawks would give New Orleans its second No. 1 seed in three seasons. This would mean a Green Bay loss and a Seattle win Sunday, in addition to New Orleans defeating Carolina. However, the Packers are favored to beat the Bears this week and clinch the top spot.

Kamara rushed for six touchdowns in Week 16, tying Ernie Nevers‘ 91-year-old record, and leads the NFL with 21 total TDs. He battled ankle trouble in 2019 but missed just two games. He has played all 15 of the Saints’ contests this year and established a new career high with 1,688 scrimmage yards. The Saints earning the No. 2 seed — which they would if the current spots hold — would mean a matchup with the Rams, Cardinals or Bears in Round 1. As it stands, Latavius Murray (656 rushing yards; five total TDs) would start in that game.

The Saints, however, have navigated this season without key players at multiple junctures. Michael Thomas remains on IR and has missed much of the season due to ailments and a suspension. Drew Brees missed four games because of cracked ribs and a punctured lung but has since returned. This Kamara situation will be more of the same for New Orleans, which endured a first-round upset with Kamara, Brees and a healthy Thomas last season.

Saints, RB Alvin Kamara Agree To Extension

Another running back is inking a sizable extension. NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport reports (via Twitter) that running back Alvin Kamara has signed a five-year extension with the Saints. The deal is worth $75MM in new money ($77.133MM overall), including a $15MM signing bonus. Rapoport adds that Kamara will earn$34.333MM in guaranteed money.

It’s been a tumultuous few weeks for the two sides. At one point, Kamara was skipping practices, and subsequent reports indicated that the Saints would consider moving the Pro Bowler in a trade (in exchange for a first-rounder, of course). Then, earlier this week, we learned that an extension was “extremely close,” an indication that the two sides apparently made up.

Christian McCaffrey‘s record-setting $16MM-AAV deal still leads the running back position, but Kamara will be right behind him at $15MM per year. Dalvin Cook also inked an extension today that’ll be worth $12.6MM per season, and Joe Mixon previously signed a deal that will pay him $12MM a year. Austin Ekeler (UDFA) and Kareem Hunt are among the other running backs from the 2017 class to earn extensions, with the likes of Aaron Jones and James Conner still waiting for theirs.

Since 2017, Kamara has registered an eye-popping 4,476 yards from scrimmage, teaming up with Drew Brees and Michael Thomas to form one of the best offensive trios in the NFL. The former third-round pick has earned three Pro Bowl nods, second-team All-Pro recognition, and a number of rookie accolades.

Saints, Alvin Kamara “Extremely Close” To Deal

The Saints and Alvin Kamara are “extremely close” to finalizing an extension, sources tell Adam Schefter of ESPN.com (on Twitter). The deal could potentially get done today, since the players have off and Kamara would have time to review the proposed terms.

[RELATED: Titans Beat Out Saints For Jadeveon Clowney]

The sides have made progress in recent weeks, though there’s also been trade speculation surrounding the star running back. Just days ago, the Saints were said to be open to moving Kamara, though they would ask for a first-round pick in return. At one point, Kamara was skipping practices, but the two sides now seem to be on the same page.

Kamara’s deal is expected to land somewhere between Joe Mixon‘s $12MM-per-year pact and Christian McCaffrey‘s record-setting $16MM-AAV deal. Odds are, it’ll be closer to CMC than Mixon. Since 2017, Kamara has registered an eye-popping 4,476 yards from scrimmage, and the Saints don’t want to lose that offensive firepower.

For now, Kamara has one year to go on his rookie deal. The former third-round pick is set to earn just $2.13MM in base salary in 2020.