The Whodatnation has had to part ways with fan favorites many times. It was heartbreaking when Darren Sproles left the Saints. It was heartbreaking when Malcom Jenkins, Tracey Porter, and even Brandin Cooks were traded. When Jimmy Graham went to Seattle it took a while for the horrific realization of his absence to actually sink in. This time is slightly different.
When news hit that The Saints were making an offer to Vikings RB, Latavius Murray, fans knew immediately it meant there was a huge possibility Mark Ingram could be on his way out of the door. I believe the organization expected the fans to be upset about it but something happened this time that didn’t happen in previous circumstances. This time…. the players responded.
Cam Jordan and the others could not believe it. They sounded off immediately on Twitter and other social media platforms. The failure to negotiate a deal with Mark Ingram said a lot about the organization and it also said a lot about Mark Ingram.
Both Ingram and his agents as well as the Saints organization have completely underestimated the value Chemistry. It’s the one key factor you can not put a price on because when it’s real it’s a rare commodity. You can’t teach it. You can’t coach it. You can’t even manufacture it. It’s a spirit that every coach wants in his locker room but many never completely get. It’s what every player wants in a team but rarely finds.
This is one of those ugly divorces. No way around it. It is what it is. Ingram spent 8 years with this team and could have retired in a rare position, as a one team player. The Saints could have had a true proven loyal leader on their team for the next few years but were not willing to sacrifice. A relationship is about honoring commitment and sacrificing for each other when necessary.
The Saints reportedly offered Ingram $17M over 4 years but the contract only guranteed $5M of it. Under that structure, Ingram could possibly be back into free agency again after the next season. From a player’s perspective it wasn’t a secure position to be in. With Ingram’s rejection, the Saints reached out to Vikings RB Latavius Murray. They offered him $14.4M over 4 years with $7.2M in guarantees, securing the first two years. Murray is definitely a downgrade from Ingram but will offer a similar balance to Alvin Kamara as the primary runner while saving money as an extra benefit. The Saint’s offered Ingram a little over $4M per year but indsutry rumors surfaced that Ingram was asking for nearly double that. He ended up entertaining a three year deal worth $15M with the Baltimore Ravens.
While no one can be uspet about Ingram wanting more money, you have to also look at the stakes. He’s going to make more money but he’ll lose the comradary and bonds that have helped to keep him focused as a professional athlete. Let’s be honest. Alvin Kamara made Mark Ingram a more aggressive player. Drew Brees made him a more rounded player. The Saints Offensive Line, arguably the best in the leauge, made it possible for two running backs to put up incredible numbers together. He won’t have a Drew Brees throwing him the rock in Baltimore. He won’t have a Kamara on the sideline challenging him to go harder. He won’t have a Cameron Jordan in the locker room building his spirit. Sean Payton won’t be calling the magical plays that made him stand out. When you play with a team for 8 years they are more than a team. They are your family. He won’t rebuild that kind of chemistry in Baltimore in three years.
It makes no sense to leave a team that has been a Superbowl Contending Team for most of the years you have been with them and have consistently been a top offense in the league even when he was hurt, suspended, or out. That’s the sign of a well rounded system that you won’t find in every franchise. Sometimes, you have to ask yourself how important is the money over the legacy?
It also presents the continuation of an ugly trend in the Saints front office. Players who prove themselves loyal to the franchise get traded at the very moment they should be rewarded by the franchise. The chemistry that Mark Ingram brings to the locker room is worth the extra $1M per year. At least half of that. He was a workhorse for the organization during his prime years and even when the team found the likes of Alvin Kamara and Adrian Peterson he never declined. He worked harder to prove he should remain a constant. Some of the most magical moments in Saints games were made by this one player. It was just last season we watched him drag three players down the field into the endzone. These kind of players can’t be duplicated so easily.
What’s the use of paying a player less just to save money if that person is not guaranteed to produce what the person you already have has proven to produce? It’s like leaving a good woman for a new woman. The new woman may have possibilities but there is no gurantee that the new woman can do what the person you have has already proven she can do well.
It’s messy and it’s ugly because the Saints locker room has been the most productive and energetic locker room in the league. It seems the only person who is truly safe on the team is the Quaterback. What message does this send Cameron Jordan, Alvin Kamara, and Mike Thomas? All of these contracts will be expiring soon. The Saints front office has shown them it doesn’t matter how well they play, if it will save money, the Saints will trade you for a few dollars less. That doesn’t present much loyalty to the players. Why should they be hyped up about being loyal to you? The Patriots would pay Gronk whatever he wants because he’s part of the fabric of their organization. The Atlanta Falcons have no plans of getting rid of Julio Jones. When a player is loyal to the organization it should be important to reward them when it’s their time to be rewarded.
This is one time we can not hide behind the, “it’s just business”, cop-out. Business should be to take care of the people who have been loyal to you. It should also be to make sacrifices for the people who have supported you during your mess-ups and believed in you when you struggled. At some point, business has to be met with loyalty and loyalty has to be wrapped in compassion. Ultimately, true chemistry is built when I know you care about me as much as I care about you. This is a lesson that both the Saints and Ingram have completely missed altogether. The Saints will miss Mark Ingram’s passion on the field and his humor in the locker room. But, don’t get it twisted. Mark Ingram will definitely miss the Saints organization. Both sides will regret their neglect to meet each other halfway in the upcoming season.