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Saints RB Mark Ingram's big year could trigger early free agency

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The Saints signed Adrian Peterson to great fanfare in the 2017 offseason, marking one of the biggest storylines of the spring. They drafted Alvin Kamara in the third round and watched him become one of the breakout stars of the season.

While Peterson was shipped to Arizona, and Kamara has been as electric as the Saints hoped, incumbent Mark Ingram is quietly having the best season of his career.

And he just might cash in on it.

According to the terms of Ingram's four-year, $16 million contract signed in 2015, there is a key clause that may allow him to be a free agent in 2018 based on his performance in 2017.

This was known at the time Ingram signed it. It never mattered much until now.

Suddenly, on the heels of back-to-back 100-yard games for the division-leading Saints, Ingram could automatically void his 2018 year and earn a third contract.

Per the terms of his deal, if Ingram is chosen as a First-Team All-Pro by the Associated Press this year, his contract automatically voids and cancels out a 2018 season that would have seen him earn $4.6 million. It also would have voided if he went to the Pro Bowl twice, but that can't happen now.

And actually, because of the way it is written and the way the AP has changed their All-Pro team, Ingram could have his contract voided if he's chosen as a running back or as a "flex." Last year, two running backs -- Ezekiel Elliott (RB) and David Johnson (flex) -- were on the team.

Ingram has rushed for 806 yards on 155 carries with eight touchdowns, while adding 213 receiving yards. He's averaging a whopping 5.2 yards per rush -- more than a full yard-per-rush better than leading rusher Le'Veon Bell.

Currently, Ingram is fourth in rushing yards behind Bell (886 yards), Chiefs running back Kareem Hunt (873) and Bears running back Jordan Howard (841).

At the time, the contract negotiated by the Saints and Ingram's agent Joel Segal was meant to reward the player if he had a stellar 2017 by allowing him a new contract. The Saints clearly didn't mind, because if the clause was triggered, Ingram would have earned it.

If Ingram keeps going the way he's going, and if he gets an assist from sports writers who vote on the All-Pro team, he will have earned his freedom.

Follow Ian Rapoport on Twitter @RapSheet.

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