Not every NFL player gets to ride off into the sunset, having reached the mountain top and go off on their own terms. Baltimore Ravens RB Mark Ingram faces this dilemma as he becomes one of the first veterans who will be cut following the 2020 NFL season. With one year remaining on his contract, Mark Ingram found himself on the chopping block and is looking for a new home.
Mark Ingram was one of the best complementary backs in the NFL
Selected out of the University of Alabama by the New Orleans Saints, RB Mark Ingram didn’t find much success in his early years. From 2011 to 2013, Ingram rushed for 1,462 yards on 356 carries across 37 games. Adding 11 rushing touchdowns during this span, Ingram played more of a second fiddle role to Pierre Thomas.
In 2016, with the backfield to himself, Mark Ingram had his best season ever. He carried the ball 205 times for 1,043 yards and totaled 10 touchdowns. When it looked like he had found a new role, the Saints brought in some kid out of Tennessee by the name of Alvin Kamara.
Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara’s RB committee
Together, the duo quickly became the best 1-2 punch in the NFL.
The two backs totaled 5,220 rushing yards over the course of three seasons. In their first two seasons together, it was Mark Ingram who was the leading rusher. He had back-to-back seasons going over 1,000 yards.
From 2016 to 2018, Ingram rushed for 2,812 yards on 573 carries for 24 touchdowns. He added in 125 receptions for 905 yards and five more scores.
Ingram found himself with the Ravens in 2019
Ingram served a four-game suspension to start the 2018 season for violating the NFL’s policy on performance-enhancing drugs. As the Saints increasingly relied on Kamara as a feature back, Ingram’s numbers slumped.
With his role diminished, it became clear that Ingram might not have a future in New Orleans depending on how his market played out in free agency. Ultimately, Ingram chose the Ravens.
The former Saints RB agreed with the Ravens on a three-year contract worth $15 million.
He was a seamless fit for the Baltimore Ravens
Ingram brought true leadership to a young team and was a voice in the locker room from day one. Also, his play on the field backed it up.
In his first season with the team, Ingram had 202 carries for 1,018 yards and 10 touchdowns. He added five more scores through the air along with 247 yards on 26 receptions.
The 31-year-old running back served on a dynamic duo once again. However, this time it wasn’t with a running back, but with 2019 MVP QB Lamar Jackson. The Ravens needed a reliable RB to complement Jackson, and Ingram filled that role perfectly. He was voted to the Pro Bowl in 2019 and served as the unofficial campaign leader for Jackson’s MVP race.
Due to a decreasing role in 2020, a cut seemed inevitable
2020 was likely not the season that Mark Ingram envisioned.
After a 2019 campaign where he racked up 1,265 scrimmage yards and scored a personal-best 15 touchdowns (10 as a runner, five as a receiver), Ingram was slowly phased out of the offense.
He started the season off as part of a three-headed rushing attack that featured him, Gus Edwards, and 2020 rookie J.K. Dobbins. From Week 1 to Week 6, Ingram saw only 50 rushing attempts. He averaged 4.5 yards per carry, totaling 225 yards and scoring two touchdowns.
During the Week 6 win over the Philadelphia Eagles, Ingram suffered a “mid-to high-ankle sprain,” though it was not considered severe.
Dobbins’ sensational play made it easy for the Ravens to bump Ingram down the depth chart
He made his return in Week 10 but never recaptured his role. By that time, Dobbins had started to assert himself as the future of the backfield, relegating Mark Ingram to the third spot on the depth chart. Over the last eight weeks, Ingram appeared in only four games, rushing 22 times for 74 yards. Ingram posted the lowest yards from scrimmage total (349) of his career.
Ingram ended up being a consistent name on the inactive list, despite being healthy. He was also inactive for Baltimore in their playoff games with the Tennessee Titans and Buffalo Bills.
Given how the end of the season went, the writing seemed on the wall that the Ravens would cut Mark Ingram.
The Ravens cut Mark Ingram, saving precious cap space
Unfortunately, the NFL is a business, and hard decisions need to be made. Mark Ingram was not set to become a free agent until 2022. Yet, the Ravens had an out in his contract and they chose to exercise it.
In doing so, the Ravens will save $5 million against the 2021 salary cap by releasing Ingram. With the salary cap projected to drop to $176 million in 2021, every penny saved is massive. According to Over The Cap, the Ravens are projected to be around $30 million under the salary cap.
J.K. Dobbins is the running back of the future in Baltimore. Gus Edwards is a restricted free agent, which could leave Dobbins and Oklahoma State RB Justice Hill as the main RBs on the depth chart. By cutting Mark Ingram, the Ravens can use that extra salary to decide on players like 2021 free agents Matt Judon and Yannick Ngakoue.
Also, they need to look ahead to 2022, where Mark Andrews is scheduled for free agency and a potential mega-deal with Lamar Jackson looms. The Ravens organization will surely pick up Jackson’s fifth-year option, if not agree to terms on a contract extension outright.
While cutting for Mark Ingram ends his Baltimore career, the 31-year-old RB should land somewhere else in free agency. He is still a valuable backup or complementary piece to a backfield. Therefore, a one or two-year deal for around $4 million could make sense and be one final chapter in Mark Ingram’s career. Perhaps then he can go out on his own terms.
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