682 yards in 11 games, or approximately 62 yards per game. That's all that Saints #1 RB Mark Ingram needs to get for the remainder of the 2018 Regular Season, to break the franchise rushing yardage record currently held by Saints living legend and former Pro Bowl RB Deuce McAllister.
For the 28-year old Ingram, it will be one of the great accomplishments of his playing career; alongside with winning the Heisman Trophy as an All-American RB at the University of Alabama during the 2009 season — which of course was the same year that the Saints won the Super Bowl.
However, as most Saints fans are well aware: Ingram's contract expires at the end of this season, and the question moving forward as the remaining 11 games are played, is likely to be asked:
Does Ingram "fit" into the team's plans beyond this season? Or will the Saints front office brass allow him to "walk" in 2019 NFL Free Agency?
Ingram is still at the top of his game; when you take into consideration that he has rushed for over 1,000 yards in back-to-back seasons (1,043 yards two years ago and 1,124 yards last year); and along with 2nd year superstar RB Alvin Kamara led the NFL last season with 23 rushing touchdowns.
Additionally, it's probably a fair observation to say that he hasn't nearly been as "beaten up" as most NFL RB's his age, thanks to the fact that he didn't receive much playing time earlier in his career.
Now it likely will come down to what contract negotiations always come down to: money, and how much the Saints are willing to spend on a player who in spite of his production, will be nearing the age (30) when most starting #1 RB's in the League are at the end of their playing careers because of the physical beating that they take.
Ingram officially returned from his 4-game suspension last Monday night and rushed for 53 yards and 2 TD's against the Redskins. As of this very moment with the Baltimore Ravens coming up next on the schedule, Ingram has rushed for a grand total of 5,415 rushing yards and has scored 46 touchdowns to his name.
McAllister rushed for 6,096 yards during his time with New Orleans, and Ingram only needs to consistently put up enough yardage week-to-week from here on out, to catch and eventually pass him in the team's record book.
“I’ve been a Saint for seven years and [I have] one year left on the deal,” Ingram said to reporters back in July right before Training Camp.
“We’ll see what happens. I love the Saints. I love my teammates. I love the city. I can’t see myself being anywhere else, but we’ll see. It’s a business at the end of the day. So who knows what will happen. But I hope it all works out.”
“I feel like my career is just starting and only just beginning. I feel like I’m going into my eighth year, but I haven’t had a lot of wear and tear on my tires. You can go to guys with only four or five years that have more carries and more wear on their tires than me.
"So I’m just going to continue to keep grinding and improving and get better. I feel like my best football is still ahead of me.”
Ingram's self-assessment is an accurate one, when you think to how his career might be prolonged by remaining in New Orleans to finish out his NFL career.
While Kamara has obviously has become one of the main focal points for how the Saints run their offensive scheme, it hasn't stopped Ingram from making his own distinctive impact, particularly in the "power" running game.
Specifically, Ingram’s capability to run between the tackles when paired along with Kamara’s breath-taking and dynamic athleticism, has actually helped allow him to carve out his very own individual and rather distinctive role to fill, within the offense.
But how much that role is worth to Saints team brass (a.k.a., general manager Mickey Loomis and head coach Sean Payton) will be what ultimately determines if Ingram will be back or not in 2019.
Ingram hasn't given any indication yet as to what he expects to be offered, although he was one of the first NFL players on Social Media to respond to the recent contract extension given to All-Pro Los Angeles Rams RB Todd Gurley; who signed a 4-year extension worth $60 million and that featured a guarantee of $45 million, according to multiple reports.
Ingram tweeted out his reaction in real-time on Twitter, and gave his unconditional support to the Rams star, as he posted: “My dawg gave em dat hometown discount!!! EARNED DAT”
— Mark Ingram II (@MarkIngram22) July 24, 2018
However, Gurley is only 24 years old and most NFL analysts consider him to be THE best RB in the entire sport of Pro Football at the moment, so the likelihood of Ingram coming anywhere even close to getting offered that type of money, is a long-shot at best.
Nevertheless, Mark Ingram has been an invaluable part of the Saints' overall success since his arrival via the 2011 NFL Draft; and bringing him back for one last final contract to finish out his playing career in the Black and Gold, seems like a plausible outcome for both sides.
The only thing that would prevent that from happening, is if the two sides can't agree on just how much keeping him around is worth.
One thing is certain: Ingram is about to make Saints history — and hopefully he'll be back in 2019 and beyond, to even make some more.........