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“Gone but never forgotten.”

“Better a minute too early, than a minute too late.”

Both quotes above are the epitome of each perspective involved in the New Orleans Saints decision Tuesday to essentially move on from two-time pro bowl running-back Mark Ingram. There’s either a side in mourn or a side bravely facing a very harsh reality.

With all of the news surrounding Latavius Murray, Ingram, and the New Orleans Saints circulating Tuesday there have been many reactions to dissect. Let’s look through them!

End of an era

ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported the first domino Tuesday Morning as the Saints are expected to sign Murray, the former Minnesota Viking to a four-year deal worth $14.4 million.

Murray’s deal signals the start of a new era in the New Orleans Saints’ backfield, as Mark Ingram’s time in the big easy appears all but over.

Big shoes to fill

Ingram’s departure brings back the reminder of the cold reality that exists in the NFL and professional sports as a whole. The former first-round pick had a fantastic eight-year career with the Saints as he will leave second all-time in rushing and currently holds the all-time record in rushing touchdowns. He leaves behind quite a legacy.


Pittsburgh Steelers v New Orleans Saints

Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images

Ingram also leaves behind a locker room reputation that will dearly be missed, and no matter how good Latavius Murray performs on the field —will remain unmatched off the field. And let’s not dismiss the brother-like relationship Ingram openly had with the soon to be lead back Alvin Kamara.

2014? What can Murray provide?


NFL: New Orleans Saints at Minnesota Vikings

Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

Did the Saints make a mistake in letting one of their newfound culture generators walk for an assumed downgrade? Could this be similar to 2014 all over again?

What about Murray? Are we forgetting the type of offensive lines, Quarterbacks, and offensive minds he’s played with over time?

While Ingram is the superior player, the rest of the offseason in NOLA surrounded by the best offensive cast that Murray has seen may inch the needle closer than expected. And we also must remember the options that could come available during the draft, unrestricted free agency, and throughout the pre-season. Let’s not forget the ability the Saints have shown to find under the radar talented running backs in the Loomis-Payton era.

The answers are unknown at this time as while the 2014 worries are reasonable, the numbers behind them aren’t. The 2014 Saints tried to change personnel and empty out older veterans, for more younger, spry, dynamic playmaking talents.


Washington Redskins v New Orleans Saints

It took the Saints years to recover from 2014’s infamous veteran overhaul
Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

And in the case of that year, New Orleans replaced multiple talents at various positions to go with electing new leadership that lets just say —didn’t seep through every belt loop.

The case of Mark Ingram is New Orleans sticking to their guns with other holes to fill in a position group where they already have a star player that should be ready for a lead role.

The Saints didn’t have many of those examples in 2014 when they added several names from the outside. The chemistry NOLA has built this time around has a great chance of remaining strong, as they have resigned other key compartments from last year’s playoff run.

And when it comes to Murray, the Saints clearly have done their homework and have a clear role in mind for him.

He has strengths as a red zone runner that is used to catching the ball out of the backfield as well as making decisive cuts once a hole is available. With his size and the talent of the Saints offensive line, New Orleans may not need much more from Murray.

Ain’t nothing more important than the moolah

Let’s not forget the money aspect here either. It doesn’t get much more simple than this: The Saints wanted Mark Ingram — at the right price. The rumors are that Ingram is expecting anywhere from seven and a half to eight million in salary per year. The Baltimore Ravens appear to be the team first in line willing to meet his demands.

That’s double what the Saints paid for in Murray. No matter how bad the Saints wanted Ingram to return, they had their limits and stuck their guns.

At it’s lowest Ingram’s asking salary according to https://overthecap.com would place him right around the top seven ranking of highest paid running backs. And at eight million per year he’d be fighting for top five position. The problem is, Ingram would be the second oldest running back to crack the top ten, and the third oldest if we include the top 20.

With a few other spotted holes left open on the roster, the Saints simply could not afford to pay Ingram what he wanted and ultimately deserved in his presumed final opportunity at a big payday. Even in a win-now mode as we count Drew Brees’ final NFL snaps.


New Orleans Saints v Baltimore Ravens

Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images

And we must also remember the younger star talents the Saints will have to pay big money eventually. Not to mention, Ingram wouldn’t even be the best running back on his team.

The Kamara effect/Passing of the torch

Running backs in today’s NFL are found all over the place if given the right opportunity and system to thrive in. No one knows about that better than Alvin Kamara. While Mark Ingram was apart of a great duo in New Orleans, the Saints are best with Kamara on the field.


NFL: Philadelphia Eagles at New Orleans Saints

Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports

Yes, they’ve tried to limit his workload. Yes, they’re still going to want to keep him fresh as the season progresses, so much that we shouldn’t rule out a third running back having a chance to make a rotational impact at some juncture.

The biggest key here, however, is that Kamara is one of the best running backs in football. With a larger role, there’s a chance he could be the undisputed best. Kamara has the torch, and the juice now.

The Reality

Overall, Mark Ingram will forever be in the hearts and minds of Saints fans for his contributions on and off the field in New Orleans. The business of professional sports requires us all, however, to separate the emotion from the logic when making personnel decisions.

The New England Patriots have been dominant over the past two decades not just because of their talent and coaching, but because of their ability to know when a dollar amount is too steep to tackle in certain areas. Running backs don’t have a very long shelf life in the NFL, and while Ingram’s workload doesn’t match the average soon to be 30 year old, the Saints’ hands were tied, and they stuck to their gut feeling.


Pittsburgh Steelers v New Orleans Saints

Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images

There will be a lot of work to be done going forward as Murray and others will have huge shoes to fill. The organization will have to provide reassurance to several that confided in Mark. And it’s a wake-up call to other key contributing veterans that if Mark Ingram can be moved on from, almost anybody can.

There will still be several number 22 jerseys walking around the super dome, and he will one day be given every player award and retirement ceremony possible once his cleats are retired and his playing days are over. Ingram deserved a payday for all of the hard work he’s put in from day one. He had no choice but to get his worth, but unfortunately, we must all remember, either did New Orleans.



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