News & Info/Headlines

Saints, Ingram Agree To New 4-Year, $16 Million Deal
Although fantasy football owners won't get him at the same bargain-basement price they paid last summer, they can at least count on some degree of continuity as the New Orleans Saints kept Mark Ingram from hitting the open market by signing the star tailback to a four-year contract on Saturday.

ESPN's Adam Schefter first reported the news. Profootballtalk.com's Mike Florio added the deal is worth $16 million.

Ingram, a former first-round draft choice and Heisman Trophy winner out of Alabama, finally had a breakout season in 2014. The 25-year-old ran for a career-high 964 yards and nine touchdowns, despite missing three games with a broken hand early in the year.

As ESPN.com reminded readers, Ingram's career got off to a slow start, thanks to a combination of minor injuries, inconsistent production and an overcrowded Saints backfield that relegated him mostly to short-yardage and base-running packages. As a result, he had just 1,462 yards through three years, with one career 100-yard game.

However, the 5-9, 215-pounder finally got an opportunity to be featured as a workhorse back last season after the Saints traded away Darren Sproles and fellow backs Pierre Thomas and Khiry Robinson were injured.

Ingram responded with four 100-yard games in a six-week span, including a career-best 172 yards in a 44-23 victory over the Green Bay Packers.

Head coach Sean Payton had made no secret of his desire to retain Ingram -- which given the team's salary-cap issues wasn't a given. The Philadelphia Eagles were among the teams expected to pursue him had Ingram hit the open market on Tuesday.

"Hopefully, he's someone that's back in the Black and Gold because he's been a big part of our success offensively," Payton said of Ingram last week.

To that end, the Saints began clearing cap space in recent days, with a restructed contract for Marques Colston among the moves.

The other three veterans on the roster last year were Thomas, Robinson and Travaris Cadet, but Thomas was released Wednesday. All three made the Saints roster as undrafted free agents as did Chris Ivory, who was traded to the New York Jets in 2013.

The Saints signed former Arizona Cardinals running back Tim Hightower earlier this offseason, but he's been out of the NFL for two seasons and isn't being counted on to be a major part of the backfield.

Those making plans and roster decisions in Dynasty leagues involving Saints running backs can now do so with some degree of clarity.

Ingram will remain the workhorse. Cadet's role should continue to expand, especially with Thomas no longer in the picture. But as ESPN.com's Mike Triplett pointed out earlier this week, Cadet didn't play a big role in 2014 even when Thomas and Robinson were battling injuries. Cadet is a restricted free agent, but nobody seems to be looking for him to move on.

Robinson, meanwhile, may have some work to do to work his way back into the mix.

According to Triplett, the Saints were primed to increase Robinson’s workload this past year before his season got derailed by a fractured arm. He generated considerable buzz coming off the 2013 season, but failed to capitalize the way Ingram did upon return from the broken hand.

For the record, Ingram has a total of 2,426 yards and 20 rushing touchdowns in 50 career regular-season games, plus 53 career receptions for 288 yards.