One of the biggest decisions the Saints will have to make this offseason will center on what to do with Mark Ingram.
The New Orleans running back pieced together a breakout season in 2014, rushing for 964 yards on 226 carries with nine touchdowns over 13 games. If Ingram had not missed three games because of injury, using his season pace, he would have finished with more than 1,100 rushing yards.
The Saints have not seen that kind of production from the running back position since Duece McAllister was in town.
The problem is that Ingram will want to be paid for that production. And given that the Saints are tight to the salary cap and have other capable in-house options, it might be difficult to retain Ingram if he produces a healthy market.
Here is a look at the rest of the decisions the Saints must make this offseason with other players who are set to reach free agency:
Skinny: Much maligned during his time in New Orleans, cornerback Robinson showed flashes this season where it appeared the confidence issues that plagued him during his first four seasons with the Saints were behind him. Unfortunately, he never achieved the consistency needed to lock down the No. 2 cornerback spot.
Bottom line: If he doesn’t cost much, Robinson is a solid option to cover the slot, where he held opposing quarterbacks to a 57.5 rating.
Skinny: Haralson, a 30-year-old linebacker, did not make many headlines. He’s not the type of player who is going to get after the quarterback, and his coverage is only adequate, which is typical of a 4-3 outside linebacker. He was, however, quietly solid against the run.
Bottom line: The Saints could upgrade this position, but having Haralson around on a cheap deal would not hurt.
Skinny: The Saints interior line was not as stout as expected. The question is whether that is because of attrition across the line, or if it was the result of center Goodwin struggling. It’s important to note Goodwin battled a litany of injuries, but his performance was not up to par.
Bottom line: New Orleans should look to upgrade this position, whether it’s with an in-house option like Tim Lelito or someone outside the organization.
Skinny: Humber was stealing starter snaps at linebacker by the end of the season as the Saints showed more true 3-4 looks on defense. While he was inconsistent early, he had one of his better games against Tampa Bay in the season finale. He’s also a contributor on special teams.
Bottom line: He’s not the guy you build your defense around, but there are worse players to have around as depth.
Skinny: A third-down running back, Cadet finished the year with 38 receptions for 296 yards. He performed well when called upon, but perhaps it is telling he was a healthy scratch for a Week 16 game against the Atlanta Falcons.
Bottom line: He’s a solid replacement-level player who can fill in a pinch, though he lacks the explosiveness of a player like Pierre Thomas.
Skinny: Averaging less than 20 snaps per game on the defensive line, Walker flew a little bit under the radar. That shouldn’t be held against him. Walker made the most of his snaps, performing well against both the run and as a pass rusher, finishing with 15 hurries over 306 snaps.
Bottom line: Walker has shown solid growth and could be a good developmental project.
Skinny: While the team views him as one of the better blocking wide receivers on the team, Meachem finished with seven catches for 114 yards over 11 games. It marks his second consecutive season in which he finished with 20 or fewer receptions.
Bottom line: While the team might value different traits, as an outside observer, it feels as though the Saints could get better production from this roster spot.
Skinny: Made 19 of 22 field goals, though made only four of seven attempts that were 40 yards or longer. Coach Sean Payton appeared to be lukewarm on him throughout the season.
Bottom line: Considering the team signed Dustin Hopkins to the practice squad late in the season, it seems as though Graham will be fighting for his job if he’s brought back.
Skinny: Harris deserves credit for playing when needed, and at times through injuries, but his performance left something to be desired. Playing 393 snaps at offensive tackle, Harris allowed 26 hurries. That’s one less than left tackle Terron Armstead, who played 850 snaps this season.
Bottom line: The Saints will likely take a look at backup offensive tackles this offseason.
Skinny: Served as a reserve defensive tackle and finished with 10 quarterback hurries. Deaderick was also adequate against the run.
Bottom line: There are worse options for this role. Deaderick was neither spectacular nor a major liability.
Skinny: Brought in late to help shore up the depth at safety, Sanford filled in and had his best game of the year in the finale against Tampa Bay.
Bottom line: If brought back, Sanford will be competing at a crowded position that features many young players with upside.
(Exclusive rights free agent)
Skinny: The Saints allowed Warren to get away after a promising training camp, but brought him back after injuries ravaged the team’s depth at free safety. Thrown into a tough spot, Warren performed well and had several moments when his promise shined through.
Bottom line: New Orleans will likely make a move to retain Warren and again give him the opportunity to win a job coming out of camp — which is no guarantee, given the depth at this position.
(Exclusive rights free agent)
Skinny: After spending much of the season on the practice squad, the Saints turned to Frederick late in the year to man the No. 2 cornerback spot. Playing major snaps over the final three games, he surrendered receptions on 14 of the 16 passes thrown his direction.
Bottom line: The team seems like to like Frederick’s upside, and if they he can continue to grow and develop, he should be brought back to compete for a job.
Skinny: Spent another season serving behind Drew Brees after beating Ryan Griffin for the backup quarterback job.
Bottom line: If the Saints feel Griffin can perform in a pinch, or if they draft another quarterback, McCown might be looking for another job.
OTHER FREE AGENTS
Defensive end Cheta Ozougwu, guard Senio Kelemete, linebacker Moise Fokou, cornerback A.J. Davis and linebacker Jerry Franklin.