The New Orleans Saints will be without one half of their record-setting running back duo for at a month to start the season.
Mark Ingram, who along with Alvin Kamara became the first teammates at running back to each have 1,500 yards from scrimmage in a season, has been suspended four games for a violation of the NFL’s policy on performance-enhancing drugs according to multiple reports.
On the heels of that news, another report indicated the relationship between Ingram and the Saints was rocky before the suspension was announced.
Ingram wants new contract
The Saints shopped Ingram in a trade, according to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport, but pulling off a deal became too difficult with the suspension looming over him. Both sides have known for weeks about the pending suspension.
Rapoport also reported that Ingram wants a new contract. He’s in the final year of his deal with a $4 million base salary. Rapoport said Ingram has not been at the Saints facilities working out with the team and will likely skip OTAs as well.
Ingram is coming off a fantastic season, but the Saints were already preparing to feature Alvin Kamara more.
Alvin Kamara gets an even bigger role
Losing Ingram for four games isn’t ideal, but it’s not like the Saints don’t have another option. Kamara had a phenomenal rookie season, winning NFL offensive rookie of the year despite splitting time with Ingram.
Kamara had 1,554 yards from scrimmage and 13 touchdowns. He had only 120 rushing attempts, and that number will go way up in 2018. He should be the featured back when Ingram is out, and presumably have a healthier piece of the backfield touches this season even when Ingram returns.
How much does this hurt the Saints?
The good news is the Saints have a favorable early season schedule. They start at home against the Buccaneers and Browns, and then have road games at the Falcons and Giants. Missing Ingram for the Falcons game stings, because Atlanta and New Orleans will both contend for the NFC South title, but the other three early-season opponents were among the worst teams in the NFL last season.
What remains to be seen is what happens with Ingram beyond the suspension, given his displeasure with his contract. If he can come in after four games off and be fully invested in this Saints season, it might be a positive that he’ll have fresh legs for the final three-quarters of the season. The unknown, however, is if he can be happy in a lesser role in a contract year.
What does this mean for Ingram?
After a slow start to his NFL career, the former Heisman Trophy winner has been quite productive the past four years. Ingram has two straight 1,000-yard rushing seasons. He made the Pro Bowl in 2014 and 2017. Last season was his best in the NFL, with 1,540 yards from scrimmage and 12 touchdowns.
The suspension will likely hurt him in free agency next offseason. He’ll also be 29 years old, and most running backs of that age don’t find a friendly market for their services.
The news of the suspension clearly makes things a lot more complicated for Ingram’s future, and the Saints’ present.
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