Without Alvin Kamara, Saints Super Bowl Dreams Would Become a Nightmare

Yesterday when word first came out via a report that the New Orleans Saints were actually considering trading away their 3rd year superstar RB Alvin Kamara, it would be more than fair to say that a large majority of the franchise’s passionate ‘Who Dat Nation’ fan-base collectively lost their minds over such a stunning pronouncement.

However by the time last night ended, they were able to breathe a sigh of relief when it was revealed that the former NFL’s Rookie of the Year from 3 years ago had been nursing a bad back for that caused him to miss the team’s practices for the past several days.

Nevertheless, there are still questions that remain as to whether he and the team can reach an agreement on a new contract extension that would keep him in NOLA for the next several seasons.

But one thing should make the organization’s position on contract negotiations with Kamara an easy one, is that if the Black and Gold have any plans on making their dreams of winning a 2nd Super Bowl in team history come true, then they can’t do it without him.

When the team reports to practice in just a few short hours from now, it’s expected that the 25-year old former University of Tennessee star will be back at the team’s training facility, while the two sides try to hammer out a long-term contract extension, according to separate reports by NFL “Insiders” / reporters Jeremy Fowler of ESPN and Ton Pelissero of the NFL Network.

However, Fowler’s report specifically indicated that New Orleans doesn’t want to part ways with the three-time Pro Bowl selection in spite of their current financial limitations under the League’s salary-cap, because of the invaluable talent that he brings to the team’s high-powered offensive attack as both a runner and a receiver out of the backfield.

The biggest issue that seems to be affecting any negotiations going forward is Kamara’s reported desire to become one of the League’s top-paid RB’s along the same lines as Carolina Panthers All-Pro RB Christian McCaffrey — who most experts consider to be the undisputed #1 RB in the entire NFL.

Back in April, McCaffrey was given a 4-year, $64 million extension that will pay him a whopping $16 million per season, an almost-unheard of number for the RB position in this current era.

But McCaffrey hasn’t experienced any significant injuries since entering the NFL, and that factor most definitely gave Panthers management the reassurance that such a substantial financial investment was well-worth the money.

Clearly the contract given to McCaffrey has since impacted the Saints’ contract negotiations with Kamara, who reportedly is asking to be compensated fairly on a level to that of his NFC South Division counterpart with the Panthers, and is said to be seeking to land a new deal which would pay him somewhat similar numbers of at least $14 million per season. The Saints are said to have offered him $12 million in their last negotiating session.

That said however, his injury struggles last year (it’s been reported previously that Kamara played most of last season on a torn MCL in his right knee but yet only missed two games) has likely decreased his overall value. But he is said to be fully healed now, and there aren’t any doubts whatsoever over what he brings to the team and its offense when he is at full strength and playing at the peak of his capabilities.

Some analysts and observers have noted that the team looked good offensively when back-up #2 RB Latavius Murray filled in at the starting #1 RB role for Kamara in the two games that Kamara missed last year, and that the team could likely survive if they did trade him to another team.

But while that much might be true, make no mistake about this much: without Alvin Kamara, the Saints’ Super Bowl dreams would become a nightmare.

Photo Credit: Michael C. Hebert / New Orleans Saints on YouTube.com

Not because Murray and veteran RB / WR Ty Montgomery couldn’t shoulder the load and effectively replace him, but simply because the Saints seemingly are a COMPLETELY DIFFERENT team when a fully-healthy Kamara is in their starting line-up.

In his first two NFL seasons in 2017 and 2018, very few other young players throughout the League had any bigger impact with their teams than Kamara did with the Black and Gold. After Saints front-office brass drafted him in the 3rd Round of the 2017 NFL Draft following a trade with the San Francisco 49ers, Kamara quickly emerged to became an NFL superstar almost overnight; as he averaged 6.1 yards per rush and 10.2 yards per catch as a rookie.

Since that time, among his impressive achievements were being chosen as the 2017 NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year, and then a stellar 2nd year in the 2018 NFL Season that was highlighted by his phenomenal production which included the rather eye-popping numbers of 1,592 total yards from scrimmage and 18 touchdowns.

With Kamara in the #1 / lead RB role within the Saints offensive scheme under head coach Sean Payton, the entire franchise was “re-energized” following three straight (7-9) losing seasons from 2014 to 2016, and as a direct result New Orleans once again became a top Super Bowl contender and they have remained so ever since.

However, the narrative surrounding him was a much different one last year during the 2019 Season; as injuries to both his knee and ankle seemed to limit his overall effectiveness and somewhat diminished his heavy influence upon the productivity of the Saints running game.

Kamara struggled last season in the opinion of many NFL observers and analysts, as he finished the year with 171 rushes for 797 yards and five touchdowns; while additionally catching 81 passes out of the backfield for 533 yards and another TD, in receiving.

While he actually only wound up missing two games and still had 14 total starts, the MCL injury that he suffered last year in Week #6 at Jacksonville against the Jaguars clearly robbed him of his typical ‘explosiveness’ — and his decline in yards per catch from 8.5 down to only 6.6 yards per reception — was an indication of just how much that he was affected and hampered by them.

Nevertheless, all of this past off-season Kamara has remained undaunted by last year’s disappointing results, and has been putting himself through a series of some unique training methods, several of which have been well-publicized and have since become wildly popular on Social Media.

The variety of different methods are part of a concerted effort on the part of himself and his trainers, as a way to further enhance his biggest traits (his core strength and notable balance) in the hopes that it will make him one of the more elusive RB’s in the entire NFL (lateral or “side-to-side” movement, as much as vertical or running “downfield”).

However, any hesitation the Saints organization might still have in offering a him a potential new contract, is that they might be concerned that any further injury issues he potentially might have could leave the team proverbially “left holding the bag”.

The Saints have made their fair share of unwise or outright bad investments on some players throughout their most recent history, and while Kamara seemingly would actually be a good investment in that particular regard; the last thing that the organization wants to do is to get ‘stuck’ with a player that despite being extremely talented and is one of the very best players at his position, could potentially become a liability if he’s ultimately unable to avoid any further injury issues going forward.

Unfortunately because of the sheer brutality and unrelenting physical punishment that RB’s now endure in today’s modern-day NFL, the average shelf-life of players at the position remarkably has shrunk to ONLY 3 years.

It’s the whole reason why many NFL teams have now implemented or transitioned to a “running back by committee” approach, with a player at the position needing to have the distinctive capability / necessary skill-set, to catch the ball out of the backfield since head coaches and offensive coordinators place much more emphasis and focus on that particular role, than ever before.

In today’s modern-day NFL, there are still top-caliber RB’s who go on to quickly become “superstars” (like Kamara and McCaffrey), but their overall durability and average shelf-life continues to diminish rapidly, and as a result the financial value which teams place on the position, has lowered the bar more than it ever has before.

But yet what Kamara brings to the table for the Saints in pure talent, athleticism, and sheer effort is truly irreplaceable.

Photo courtesy of the New Orleans Saints, YouTube

With the Saints facing the prospect of getting their stiffest challenge in the past few seasons from the other teams within their own division (specifically the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and 6-time Super Bowl champion and new starting QB Tom Brady) in the upcoming 2020 NFL Season that begins in just one more week-and-a-half from now, Kamara is likely worth every single penny he would get in a new contract extension.

And it’s for that very reason that the Saints Super Bowl dreams would become a nightmare, without him……

Barry Hirstius is a semi-retired journalist, who has worked previously as a sports editor and columnist. Barry is a New Orleans native who grew up as a fan of the Saints while attending their games as a young boy during the early 1970’s, uptown at the old Tulane Stadium. He is also the proud Grandfather of two beautiful young girls, Jasmine and Serenity. Follow him on Twitter: @BarryHirstius

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