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Saints' Mark Ingram to use contract as 'motivation'


Mark Ingram, a 2011 first-round pick, understands why the New Orleans Saints didn't pick up his fifth-year option in May.

"Like they said, they really like me as a player," the running back told The Times-Picayune at a charity basketball game Wednesday. "Just the (salary) number was a little high for what a running back gets on the free-agent market."

The fifth-year option would have run the Saints $5.2 million for 2015. Juxtaposed with the two-year, $6.2 million contract -- with just $2.5 million guaranteed -- that free agent Ben Tate received from the Cleveland Browns, it's easy to see the Saints' position.

Ingram plans to use his impending free agency as a driving force in 2014.

"It's motivation," Ingram said. "I'm coming up on a contract year. I'm an unrestricted free agent after this year, so we'll see what happens."

Ingram has totaled just 1,462 yards combined in three seasons. He is coming off a season in which he missed five games and had just 386 yards with one touchdown but earned a career-best 4.9 average yards per rush.

Sean Payton has a four-headed backfield with Ingram, Pierre Thomas, Khiry Robinson and shifty Travaris Cadet. The imaginative coach had reportedly been hinting at moving toward a ball-control offense to use the ground weapons.

Robinson was a revelation late last season. His power and tackle-breaking ability earned him a spot on Around The League's "Making The Leap" list, which begins to roll out next week.

Ingram and Robinson's improved play down the stretch even had Thomas believing he'd played his last down in New Orleans before the team gave him a new two-year extension.

If Ingram doesn't stand out in a crowded backfield, it could be he who plays his final snap for the Saints at the end of the 2014 season.

The latest "Around The League Podcast" breaks down Colin Kaepernick's new contract and debates which players are poised for a breakout.


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