SPECIAL TO THE DAILY IBERIAN
NEW ORLEANS — It appears that running back Mark Ingram’s career with the New Orleans Saints is over.
The Saints reportedly agreed to terms Tuesday with free-agent running back Latavius Murray, presumably as a replacement for Ingram, who is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent at 3 p.m. today at which time Murray will be free to sign a contract.
ESPN’s Adam Schefter was the first to report Tuesday that Murray agreed to a four-year $14.4 million deal with New Orleans.
Ingram is one of the most productive running backs in Saints history. He is just 89 yards short of Deuce McAllister’s franchise record for career rushing yards and last season broke McAllister’s record for career touchdowns and Pierre Thomas’ record for post-season rushing yards.
The potential loss of Ingram was the biggest issue facing the Saints entering free agency. He was the most significant free agent on the team and figured to attract a more lucrative deal on the open market than New Orleans is willing to offer him because of the presence of Pro Bowl running back Alvin Kamara.
Kamara was the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year two years ago and was even more productive last season as Ingram missed the first four games of the season while suspended for violating the NFL’s substance abuse policy.
Ingram, who had the only 1,000-yard rushing seasons of his eight-year career in 2016 and 2017, had just 645 rushing yards while Kamara had 883 rushing yards in addition to catching 81 passes for 709 yards.
The Saints traded up to select Ingram, then the reigning Heisman Trophy winner from Alabama, in the first round of the 2011 NFL Draft. He was a disappointment in his first three seasons before earning a Pro Bowl berth after a 2014 season in which he narrowly missed his first 1,000-yard season.
From then on he was one of the most productive players on the team while becoming extremely popular with his teammates and fans.
Murray, 29, is expected to take on a similar role to Ingram’s as a sidekick to Kamara. In 2017, Ingram and Kamara were the first teammates to each have 1,500 yards from scrimmage in the same season.
The Oakland Raiders selected Murray in the sixth round of the 2013 draft and he spent his first three seasons with them and the last two with the Minnesota Vikings.
He missed his rookie season because of a foot injury and two years later he had his only 1,000-yard season, but his production has declined since then. Murray rushed for 788 yards in his last season in Oakland, 842 in his first season in Minnesota and 578 last season.
Ingram spoke about his impending free agency with reporters covering the Saints in the days leading up to the loss to the Los Angeles Rams in the NFC Championship in January.
“I was drafted here. I met my wife here. My children were born here,” Ingram said. “I love New Orleans. I love this team. I love this organization. We’ll see what happens. … Hopefully everything works out, but it’s a business. I love it here.
“I’m not looking just to up and leave New Orleans. We’ve got a good squad. I feel like we could do this type of thing for many more years. So I’m not looking to bail out of New Orleans. Very rarely does anybody get to spend their whole career in one place.”