Gallery: Saints, Bucs game action _lowres

Advocate staff photo by MATTHEW HINTON-- New Orleans Saints running back Mark Ingram (22) leaves Tampa Bay Buccaneers free safety Dashon Goldson (38) as he runs for a gain in a NFL football game between the New Orleans Saints and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in New Orleans, La. Sunday, Dec. 29, 2013.

It would be a mistake to interpret the Saints’ refusal to exercise a fifth-year option on the contract of running back Mark Ingram as a sign that the team is not pleased with him, New Orleans General Manager Mickey Loomis said Wednesday.

It was all mathematics, the GM explained, as activating Ingram’s option would’ve cost the Saints about $5.21 million — or about $4.16 million more than his base salary was in 2013 and $3.82 million more than it’s supposed to be in 2014.

“That’s a financial decision, the amount of the tender versus what the market value of running backs has been,” Loomis said during a press conference in which he also discussed the draft, which runs from Thursday to Saturday. “We like Mark. ... We have high expectations for him, and we hope he has a great year.”

The deals that Ingram and Saints defensive end Cameron Jordan signed as rookie first-round picks in 2011 with New Orleans were for four seasons but, under the collective bargaining agreement adopted that year, the team can exercise an option to keep the players under contract for a fifth campaign.

Ahead of a May 3 deadline, the Saints in late April exercised that option for Jordan, who recorded the fifth-most sacks (12.5) in the NFL last season and made his first Pro Bowl.

The base salary in 2015 for Jordan, who is Ingram’s close friend and keeps his locker next to the running back’s at team headquarters in Metairie, will be about $6.9 million. That’s way up from a base salary of about $1.08 million in 2013 and $1.4 million in 2014.

While the Saints determined Jordan was worth that price, the same would not be true of Ingram.

“I talked to Mark before we made that decision, told him it wasn’t reflective of what we thought about him," Loomis said.

That statement certainly rings true.

After rushing for just 31 yards on 17 carries during the first two weeks of the 2013 regular season, Ingram sat out the next five games with a toe injury but he returned for the last nine games of the regular season and averaged 5.8 yards a carry to pick up 355 yards and a touchdown on 61 carries.

Ingram rushed for 146 yards on 28 carries (5.2 yards per attempt) and another touchdown in two playoff games. His regular-season yards were greatly boosted with a career-best 145-yard outing in a 49-17 win over Dallas at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, in which he gained 130 of those yards after New Orleans seized an 18-point first-half lead. He had 97 of his playoff yards in a 26-24 wildcard-round victory at Philadelphia, which was the first postseason road win in Saints history.

It’s feasible to think the Saints would consider working out a long-term deal to retain Ingram when his contract expires at the end of 2014, presumably for cheaper than what the option was calling for in 2015.

A lot, of course, will depend on the running back’s performance this year.

Ingram, who won a Heisman Trophy and a BCS title at Alabama, told reporters in April that he wasn’t worried about whether the Saints would exercise his contract’s option.

“I’m glad to be on a team that’s a championship contender,” he said.


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