The New Orleans Saints and Alvin Kamara have been a great pairing for several seasons, but the bill is coming due for his next deal after the 2020 season. The Saints have shown that they aren't afraid to commit to players financially, most notably and recently Michael Thomas. However, they've demonstrated a willingness to reward and take care of their own through players like Cam Jordan, Drew Brees, and a host of others.
There's been a lot of thoughts regarding his future with the black and gold, and we even discussed those recently through a roundtable. So, what would a new contract look like for Kamara?
The Case for Paying Kamara - A Player's Resume
- 2019 Stats: 14 games played, 171 carries for 797 rushing yards (4.7 YPC), 5 rushing TDs, 81 receptions on 97 targets for 533 yards (6.6 YPC), 1 receiving TD, 1,330 total yards
- Pro Football Focus Grade: 70.0 overall in 2019, Total: 81.4
- Approximate Value: 15 (2017), 16 (2018), 12 (2019)
- Career Stats: 45 games played, 485 carries for 2,408 rushing yards (5.0 YPC), 27 rushing TDs, 243 receptions on 302 targets for 2,068 yards (8.5 YPC), 10 receiving TDs, 4,476 total yards from scrimmage, 1 kick return TD
- Injury Summary: Showed signs of not being 100 percent in 2019, but missed just two games in the season. It was later reveal that there were some nagging ankle and knee issues. In 2018, Kamara was healthy, but rested in the season finale for Week 17. Kamara was knocked out of the Falcons road game in 2017, but even though he sustained a concussion, he didn't miss a game.
- Accolades: Three Pro Bowl selections in each of his seasons, 2017 Second-team All-Pro, 2017 Pepsi NFL Rookie of the Year, 2017 NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year, 2017 PFWA All-Rookie Team (2017)
What the Film Tells Us
Running: Kamara possesses extremely good vision, and that is especially on display in zone running schemes. While running inside the tackles, Kamara is solid. He's the type of back who can squeeze through the small holes while having enough strength to push the pile. He can also fight for the extra yards.
When healthy, you'll see his knack for shedding tackles by using a combination of agility, stability, and footwork. This is what makes him unique, and separates him from a lot of other running backs. He can explode through the holes and makes it look easy to evade tacklers on first and second contact. At times, you can see that his acceleration is almost effortless, like he's gliding up and down the field.
Pass Catching: Kamara is very diverse on the route tree, excelling in short-to-intermediate routes. He can run routes from the slot, from the outside, and out of the backfield. His great footwork and precision in his route-running makes him a matchup nightmare on a 1-on-1. Whether it's a linebacker, safety, or corner, Kamara can beat them with ease.
Putting Kamara on an option route bodes well for the Saints, as he has great lateral quickness and the ability to swap directions instantly. Part of his work ethic we see during the offseason shows this with meticulous footwork. His RAC (run after the catch) ability is strong, and was one of the missing elements to his 2019 game. Kamara has good vision in the screen game, and showcases many abilities when the football is in his hands.
Some of the best games that highlight how special Kamara is and his ability to take over include:
- Week 3 - at Seahawks
- Week 16 - at Titans
- Week 4 - at Giants (2018)
Comparisons: Ezekiel Elliott's contract was a 6-year, $90 million deal that included just over $50 million guaranteed and averages out to $15 million annually. Christian McCaffrey's deal was a 4-year, $64 million contract that gave him just over $38 million in guarantees at a $16 million annual average.
Here's some potential projections for Kamara.
- Spotrac Market Value: $14.9 million average annual salary
- Spotrac Projected Contract: 4 years/$59,673,880 (Would place Kamara third behind Ezekiel Elliot & Christian McCaffrey)
- Spotrac Base Calculated Value: 4 years/$57,666,668 with AAV of $14.4 million
- OTC Valuation (2019): $7,658,000
Dalvin Cook, who is awaiting his own contract, is similar to Ezekiel Elliott in the sense that they are more physical runners that like to do their work between the tackles. They're the type of back that will wear down defenses as the course of the game goes on. McCaffrey and Kamara are extremely comparable to each other.
Elliott's contract guaranteed just under 56 percent of the total figure, while McCaffrey's was just above 59 percent. The Saints can potentially find a sweet spot with Kamara by locking him up to a smaller two or three-year contract and guaranteeing more of the deal. Kamara will turn 25 this month, just three days after Elliott turns 25 in July with McCaffrey just hitting 24. Cook will hit 25 in early August.
Putting on the Mickey Loomis cap, the Saints just don't shell out money for free agent running backs in free agency. In the Sean Payton era, they've only signed four free running backs, totaling up to $53.4 million handed out. Again, the team isn't shy about taking care of their own players, what could make Kamara happy is not something completely long-term, but also making it lucrative. Here's some potential contracts to throw at Kamara.
- Option A: 2-year, $26 million deal ($18 million guaranteed - 69 percent)
- Option B: 3-year, $36 million deal ($23 million guaranteed - 64 percent)
- Option C: 4-year, $50 million deal ($31 million guaranteed - 62 percent)
There's also the franchise tag option, which is something players aren't particularly fond of. However, that's a card the Saints can play as a last resort to keeping him.
The Bottom Line
Alvin Kamara has an elite set of skills, being able to run and catch passes at an extremely high level. He demonstrates elusive characteristics in being able to shed tacklers and great stability through his balance. The dip in his 2019 production looks to be because of injuries, but could a case be made that a larger load and Mark Ingram departure made an impact as well? Maybe.
Being completely healthy and producing at a high level as the Saints lead back, Kamara's unique and elite skills make him a top running back in the league and huge difference maker in Sean Payton's offense, and this is going to help him get paid. The key to his next contract is showing these consistent abilities in 2020. He's definitely more of a Christian McCaffrey type back, and his next payday rests in how he performs in his contract year.