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Saints, Mark Ingram agree to four-year, $16M deal

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Mark Ingram will remain tucked away in the New Orleans backfield for years to come.

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NFL Media Insider Ian Rapoport reported Saturday that the Saints have reached an agreement with the hard-charging running back on a four-year deal worth $16 million, according to a source informed of the situation.

Saints coach Sean Payton emphasized this week that Ingram was "someone that we want to keep," especially after opening up cap room with the release of fellow runner Pierre Thomas.

By refusing to let Ingram go to market, the Saints have retained one of their most fascinating young players. After a slow start to his NFL career, Ingram last season looked every bit like a first-round selection, showing rare power and explosiveness inside the team's zone-blocking scheme. The one-cut system worked for Ingram: He showed improved patience in rushing for 964 yards and nine touchdowns at 4.3 yards per clip.

The new deal for Ingram takes another big-name runner off the market just three days ahead of Tuesday's free-agency launch. The Saints knew that the 25-year-old back would draw plenty of interest from rival squads, including the Philadelphia Eagles.

Ranked as our second-best free-agent runner before Saturday's deal went down, Ingram looms as a better workhorse option than Ryan Mathews, C.J. Spiller or an aging Frank Gore. New Orleans wasn't interested in picking up Ingram's fifth-year option last offseason, but everything we saw in 2014 suggests a skill player roaring into the prime of his career.

The money is fair. Nobody will come close to making the kind of scratch Marshawn Lynch is set to earn as part of two-year extension with the Seahawks that will pay him $31 million over the next three seasons. Still, Ingram's contract numbers serve as a closer approximation of what this year's crop of open-market backs can point to.

Cash aside, the cap-challenged Saints deserve credit for putting a ring on the finger of one of their most talented players.

The latest Around The NFL Podcast breaks down the Brandon Marshall trade and plays another game of "Go Get My Lunch." Find more Around The NFL content on NFL NOW.

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