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Saints decline Mark Ingram's fifth-year option

The deadline has come and gone for teams to exercise their fifth-year option on players taken in the first round of the 2011 NFL Draft.

While three quarterbacks were ignored, so too was that round's only running back: Mark Ingram of the Saints.

It comes as little surprise that New Orleans would decline the $5 million price tag to keep Ingram in place through 2015, but it's another reminder that the Saints are intent on revamping their backfield.

After trading away Chris Ivory last offseason and Darren Sproles in March, the team will look to veteran Pierre Thomas and the undrafted Khiry Robinson to compete with Ingram for carries.

While we wouldn't be stunned to see Ingram ultimately re-sign with the Saints, they'll want to see what they have in Robinson, who appears primed for a bigger piece of the pie in 2014. Sean Payton leaned on the rookie at the end of last year, handing Robinson the ball 12 times in the regular-season finale with another 21 totes in two playoff games.

Payton also mentioned Travaris Cadet as a candidate to replace Sproles as a pass-catcher out of the backfield.

That's not a role Ingram will play; he's a hard-charging runner who caught just seven passes last season. He was dominant in a 14-carry, 145-yard romp over the Cowboys in Week 10 and showed well in the playoffs, but Ingram was pedestrian in the second half of the regular season, held to 32 yards or less in six of his final seven outings.

According to Jeff Duncan of The Times-Picayune, the Saints are giving hints of transforming their offense from a wide-open passing attack to a ball-control scheme that will make the most of all these weapons on the ground. Ingram is under plenty of pressure to prove he's still part of the long-term plan.

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