Over the past several months I’ve been a supporter of giving Mark Ingram more time to prove himself with the Saints. The reason for the continued support was because his likely replacement in Khiry Robinson had not proven himself to be a fully rounded replacement yet. However, with the rather impressive recent development of the undrafted rookie’s game, it finally seems that Ingram’s time has truly run out.
With the trade deadline just days away, the time to evaluate the options available regarding Ingram is now. The one factor that needs to be kept in mind is his current toe issue. Unless he is right on the verge of coming back, the teams that may have an interest in him could be limited somewhat depending on how dire their need is. Teams that need a running back immediately may be unwilling to consider him if he’s still a few weeks away from returning to the field. On the other hand, a team whose season is already basically over or is looking for a player to develop may still be willing to kick his tires.
That leads to the next question: who could they deal him to? Two candidates come to mind as potential trade partners. Both teams need a running back to take a significant number of carries (the type of system many believe Ingram needs to be in) which makes them more willing to deal. Both are also likely to have very poor final records this season meaning any draft picks received would be high in whatever round they were for.
The ideal trade partner for the Saints to move Ingram would be the Jacksonville Jaguars. The team runs the vast majority of its run game through Maurice Jones-Drew. Short of a miracle though, MJD will not be back in the River City next season. In fact, there are rumors swirling that he may be moved by the trade deadline. At this time, there are no running backs on the Jags’ roster that could handle taking up the role. Ingram though is believed to be suited for just that type of role. With a year and a half left on a relatively affordable contract, it would be a low risk way for Jacksonville to see if he can fill their coming void. At best they fill the void about to be created by MJD’s departure. At worst, he serves as a backup for a season before walking the following spring.
New York Giants
Another fit for a trade partner would be the New York Giants. For starters, they have had some significant injury issues in their backfield. Of the five running backs that have taken snaps this season for the G-men, Brandon Jacobs currently has a hamstring injury, David Wilson is sidelined for at least another month with a neck injury and Da’Rel Scott was waived following a serious hamstring injury of his own. Andre Brown has been on short-term IR all season with a broken leg. Looking more long term, Brown, Jacobs and the recently-signed Peyton Hillis will all be free agents this coming spring. That leaves Wilson with his questionable neck and struggling rookie Michael Cox as the only running backs they have locked down.
With their season already on life support, the Giants can afford to take on a project back right now. Even with his toe issue, Ingram is still in better shape health-wise than most of New York’s backfield. With the system they employ for their running game, he would get a significant number of carries per game which plays to the style of play it’s believed he would thrive in. By the 2014 season he would know the system well enough for them to potentially replicate the Brown-Wilson-Ahmad Bradshaw run game the Giants used last season. One more thing: his father Mark Ingram Sr. spent six seasons with the Giants and was their leading receiver in Super Bowl XXV. A little sentimentality could help make New York more willing to take a chance.