Saints to ink Murray, ending Ingram run

Former Minnesota Vikings running back Latavius Murray intends to sign a four-year deal with the New Orleans Saints, a source told ESPN’s Adam Schefter on Tuesday, spelling the end of the Mark Ingram era in the Big Easy.

Before the Vikings drafted running back Dalvin Cook in 2017, Murray joined the team in free agency as the expected heir apparent to Adrian Peterson. Out of respect for Minnesota’s all-time leading rusher, Murray decided to switch his jersey from No. 28, which he wore in Oakland, to 25 ahead of the 2017 season.

Cook ended up winning the starting job in training camp as a rookie but suffered an ACL tear four games into the 2017 season. Murray then stepped in, and paired with Jerick McKinnon, led a Vikings rushing attack that ranked seventh in the league during the team’s run to the NFC Championship Game.

During free agency in 2018, the Vikings restructured Murray’s contract to avoid making the running back a cap casualty. In turn, the third year of his current deal was voided, thus making him a free agent this offseason.

Murray, who turned 29 in January, again filled an important role last season when Cook missed all but one half of play from Weeks 3-8 while recovering from a hamstring injury. In 16 games with six starts, Murray totaled 578 yards rushing and six touchdowns.

After a disappointing end to the 2018 season and with his future in Minnesota uncertain, Murray expressed a desire to earn a starting role for the following season.

He played his first three seasons with the Oakland Raiders and earned his lone Pro Bowl selection in 2015 when he rushed for a career-best 1,066 yards. He has rushed for 3,698 yards and 34 touchdowns in 77 games. He also has 128 receptions for 883 yards.

Ingram turns 30 in December, which can be a taboo number for a running back. But the two-time Pro Bowler, 2011 first-round draft pick and former Heisman Trophy winner has played some of his best football over the past three seasons.

Plus, his mileage has been somewhat tempered by spending much of his eight-year career with the Saints in timeshares — including his historic pairing with Alvin Kamara over the past two seasons.

In 2017, they became the first duo to each surpass 1,500 yards from scrimmage in the same backfield, when Ingram ran for career highs of 1,124 yards and 12 touchdowns. Last season, Ingram became more of a No. 2 back after returning from a four-game suspension to start the season for violating the NFL’s policy on performance-enhancing substances. He finished with 645 rushing yards, 170 receiving yards and six touchdowns in 12 games.

ESPN’s Courtney Cronin and Mike Triplett contributed to this report.

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