Andy Benoit and Conor Orr are writing up grades for every major NFL free agency signing here. Below is Andy's grade for new Saints RB Lataius Murray.
From: Minnesota Vikings
To: New Orleans Saints
Contract: Four years, $14.4 million
Breakdown: By effectively replacing Mark Ingram with Latavius Murray, the Saints have downgraded their base ground game, which is built on interior, downhill runs. Murray is a 230-pounder who often runs like he’s 215, while Ingram is a 215-pounder who often runs like he’s 230. Some of it is a function of body type; at 6' 3", Murray is long and angular, while the 5' 9" Ingram is low and compact. But more of it is a function of sheer ability—Ingram finishes runs with authority, plus he has deceptively light feet and loose hips, while Murray is a stiffer, less imposing runner who relies on having sound blocking and lacks the nuance to make average blocks look good.
Murray was signed for an average of $4.5 million over four years, which is a tick more than what Ingram had been making. If Ingram doesn’t garner at least $6 million annually from whatever team signs him, this will register as one of the most befuddling roster moves of 2019. Not only is Ingram a much better inside runner than Murray, but he’s also a more polished backfield receiver, particularly on screens. In New Orleans’s scheme, that’s huge.
With Ingram, the Saints could feel O.K. with limiting superstar Alvin Kamara to 70% of the snaps. With Murray, as the season wears on, they’ll be more and more tempted to keep Kamara on the field. That’s not insignificant given that this offense for the next 5-7 years is expected to be built around Kamara, whom many NFL coaches regard as football’s best all-around back.
New Orleans is in win-now mode, but the team took a step back at what’s been an important position in their scheme.
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