The Saints’ Mark Ingram is heading into a contract year, and Tuesday brought news that it will start off in one of the worst ways possible: on a four-game suspension. The NFL announced that the veteran running back was receiving the ban for violating league policies on performance-enhancing substances.
New Orleans plays its fourth game Sept. 30, and Ingram can be placed on the active roster Monday, Oct. 1, after missing contests against the Buccaneers, Browns, Falcons and Giants. The Saints play the Redskins in Week 5, then have their bye, meaning that Ingram is set to be idle for five of the season’s first six weeks.
The suspension also means that the Saints will likely carve out an even bigger role for Alvin Kamara, a third-round pick last year whose exploits, including an NFL-leading 6.1 yards per carry, earned him Associated Press offensive rookie of the year honors. In this year’s draft, New Orleans waited until the sixth round to take another running back, Louisiana Tech’s Boston Scott, adding him to a depth chart that currently includes Jonathan Williams, Daniel Lasco, Trey Edmunds and Zach Line.
For his part, Ingram also enjoyed a stellar 2017 campaign, notching career highs in carries (230), rushing yards (1,124), rushing touchdowns (12), receptions (58) and receiving yards (416). He averaged 4.9 yards per carry, was selected to his second Pro Bowl and combined with Kamara to become the first pair of NFL running backs on the same team to each surpass 1,500 scrimmage yards in the same season.
According to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport (via NFL.com), the Saints learned before the draft of Ingram’s suspension, which was announced after he mounted an unsuccessful appeal. Rapoport noted on Twitter that the looming punishment was the reason New Orleans “hasn’t shopped” Ingram to other teams for a potential trade.
“They’re going to go in the direction of Alvin Kamara anyway, clearly going to be their featured guy on offense,” Rapoport said of the Saints. “But, obviously Mark Ingram is a nice one-two punch for Kamara and now they will not have him for the first four games of the 2018 season.”
After signing a four-year deal with the Saints in 2015 that averages $4 million annually, Ingram is set to lose approximately $1 million because of the suspension. It will also hurt his statistics, which could in turn cost him leverage in negotiations next year, assuming the Saints let him hit free agency.
A former Heisman Trophy winner at Alabama, Ingram was a first-round pick by New Orleans in 2011. He posted disappointing numbers early in his career while splitting work with the likes of Pierre Thomas and Darren Sproles, but Ingram has become a more effective, well-rounded player in recent years, going over 1,100 scrimmage yards in each of the past four seasons.
Ingram will be able to attend offseason workouts with the Saints, as well as training camp and preseason games. If the Saints decide to add a running back in free agency, some notable veterans are still available as of Tuesday, including DeMarco Murray, Eddie Lacy, Shane Vereen and Alfred Morris.
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