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New Orleans Saints running back Alvin Kamara (41) looks on against Los Angeles Rams during the first half of a NFL divisional round game on Sunday, Jan. 20, 2019, at Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans, LA.

Alvin Kamara has to become the man.

It has to happen. The New Orleans Saints running back is too talented to play second fiddle or even share the first chair. He has the potential to become a generational talent, and it is hard to realize that when he's part of a committee.

That isn’t a knock on Mark Ingram. He was, in a lot of ways, the heartbeat of this team. His teammates fed off of his energy, and his play can also be inspiring. New Orleans was lucky to have him blossom after signing a new deal in 2014. The past four seasons have been the best of his career.

But the Saints agreed to terms with Latavius Murray on a four-year deal Tuesday, and it is safe to assume Ingram’s days with the Saints have come to an end. He will exit as the second-most productive running back in team history. Something has been lost.

But the Saints should should gain something by turning to Kamara and anointing him as the guy in total control of the backfield. There is no sharing now. Kamara is the lead guy. Murray is the sidekick. At some point, New Orleans was going to have to make this transition. Kamara is too talented to have to share anything.

Kamara averaged 4.6 yards per carry last season, finishing with 883 yards, and remained a weapon in the passing game, totaling 709 yards. There is no reason he can’t carry the ball 200 or 220 times during a season, which would have never happened with Ingram available for a full 16 games. Or, if it did happen, it would mean paying a premium for a player to serve as a sidekick.


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Some will point to the first four games of last season, when Ingram served a suspension for testing positive for performance-enhancing drugs and the Saints struggled to replace him.

It’s true that the contingent behind Kamara struggled in a big way. But those players who filled the void were unaccomplished — marginal guys who could have been picked up off the street.

While the running game as a whole was somewhat poor during those games, Kamara more than held his own, rushing 56 times for 275 yards with five touchdowns (4.91 yards per carry). It was promising.

Either way, the Saints have to find out if he can do it. The point of drafting well is so that you can cycle in new talent and don’t have to pay premium prices for aging players. Ingram was a great and vital piece of this offense for the last four seasons, but at a certain point, you have to put a cap on the value.

It becomes increasingly hard to justify paying Ingram each dollar that goes over $4 million when you have a player like Kamara on the roster. Resources are limited, and the value has to be there.

This isn’t to say Murray is as good as Ingram. He isn’t. The team is taking a step back at the position. The former Vikings running back has had some solid seasons, mostly at the start of his career in Oakland, but he isn’t nearly as dynamic as Ingram. He’ll average about 4 yards per carry, but he isn’t as capable in the passing game as his predecessor.

That's OK. This move shows it is time for Kamara to step up to the plate and become an even bigger piece of the Saints offense. It has long been time for this to happen. He has the talent to become one best running backs in the NFL.

The Saints had to clear the decks so Kamara could get the opportunity needed to realize his potential.


Follow Nick Underhill on Twitter, @nick_underhill.​