Christian McCaffrey set the running back market Monday, signing a four-year extension worth $16 million per year in new money.
With pretty much every previous team who handed out big-money contracts to RBs — like Todd Gurley or David Johnson — regretting it soon after, the question is whether McCaffrey’s deal will be an outlier or help dual-threat running backs get paid down the line.
One of the next running backs in line is the New Orleans Saints’ Alvin Kamara, who enters the final year of his rookie deal set to make a base salary of $2.133 million.
Kamara found about the McCaffrey news while on a Twitch session with Master Tesfatsion of Bleacher Report.
"Man, look, ahhhhhh… I don’t even" Kamara said when asked what CMC’s deal means for him. "I just play football. I’m just a football guy, I don’t know nothing about contracts, and all these things, and all this money.
"Shout out to Christian, man. That’s my boy. Talented for sure."
Christian McCaffrey got paid while we were Twitch streaming with @A_kamara6 & @LilCoachTMBTC.
Check out Alvin’s reaction to the record RB deal, and what it would mean for him to get an extension with the Saints pic.twitter.com/yMy46HZPot
While McCaffrey is coming off a 1,000/1,000 season, Kamara hasn’t broken the century mark in any single category during his first three seasons. Kamara hasn’t been the workhorse under Sean Payton that CMC has proven to be, but when the Saints put the ball in the RB’s hands, he’s been electric, averaging 6.1 yards per touch in the regular season for his career — he basically won New Orleans’ game against Seattle last season on his own.
Unlike CMC, however, Kamara is coming off a year in which he didn’t look explosive down the stretch, battled injury and missed two regular-season games.
A three-time Pro Bowler, Kamara is a matchup nightmare, but finding a team willing to sink $16 million per year into an RB who has never had more than 194 carries in a season seems like a longshot, even though his dual-threat ability should elevate his standing.
In recent years, the Saints have generally let RBs walk rather than sign them to a trend-setting deal. Mark Ingram was the latest running back to leave last offseason. Given the other financial commitments coming down the pike in New Orleans, would Payton shell out $10-plus-million per year for a running back? Or would the Saints be better off trying to replicate Kamara’s production with another mid-round draft pick and bet that even a slight backfield downgrade from Kamara is worth it to help buoy the rest of the roster?
With one year left on his contract, Kamara’s situation is coming to a head. With the new CBA rules preventing holdouts, the RB’s leverage at this point is minimal. The Saints also own the ability to franchise tag ($10.28 million this year) or transition tag the RB next year if they choose.
Kamara was asked what it would mean to get a long-term deal to stay with the Saints.
"I had never been to New Orleans until I got drafted by New Orleans, so just to be able to get to New Orleans and have that city embrace me, and just take me in, basically like adopt me, it’s amazing," he said. "There is so much love there. It’s a dope city, outside of football. It’s beautiful people. It’s lit. It’s alive. If we’re talking about football, I’ve never been around a group of guys like in New Orleans that just want to win and just want to be there for each other and want to be around each other."
Whether Kamara will remain in New Orleans beyond 2020 or needs to go elsewhere to get paid remains one of the key storylines as we head toward the season.
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