On Tuesday afternoon, the New Orleans Saints made an interesting move just a few days ahead of their season opener against the Green Bay Packers.
Veteran running back Latavius Murray was released, leaving the team’s backfield depth a question mark heading into Week 1.
— New Orleans Saints (@Saints) July 28, 2021
Murray had spent the last two seasons in New Orleans following a two-year stint with the Minnesota Vikings, and a three-year tenure to start his NFL career with the Oakland Raiders.
Reserve running backs are let go relatively frequently in the NFL, but the circumstances and timing surrounding Murray’s release are a little curious.
We’ll take a look at Murray’s resume with the Saints, how the preseason unfolded, and who might take over as the lead reserve ballcarrier with the Saints.
Murray’s Prior Contribution To New Orleans
One reason why Murray’s departure from the Saints is so puzzling is that he was viewed as one of the premier backup options in the NFL.
He played in 31 out of a possible 32 games in his two years with New Orleans, serving as a serviceable alternative to star running back Alvin Kamara.
He averaged a respectable 4.45 yards per carry, and had 146 rushing attempts in each of his seasons with the team.
Whenever Kamara has missed games, (he was absent for three in the last two years), Murray has done a great job of carrying the load with solid production.
— Latavius Murray (@LataviusM) July 30, 2021
The Preseason Timeline
Even at 31 years old, Murray should still have some gas in the tank, having been part of a committee in the majority of his NFL seasons.
But there were whispers about his roster security all throughout training camp, which were curious given his level of production.
The team brought in veteran Devonta Freeman to get some work in the preseason, which was a curious move for a team that already had three reliable (or so we thought) running backs.
However, based on Murray’s preseason production, or lack thereof, it is possible that New Orleans was on to something.
In two games, he had a grand total of 10 carries, for 12 yards.
His body of work with the team was enough for him to make the 53-man roster, but the team allegedly asked Murray to take a pay cut from his $4.1 million figure.
He refused to do so, and was thereby released.
It’s possible the Saints wanted to see what else they had in their running back room, but one would think they had to know that Murray was not open to restructuring back when training camp began.
Who Is Tony Jones?
Of course, New Orleans would not feel the confidence to let a proven commodity like Murray go had they not had faith in the alternatives.
That main option behind Kamara this season will be filled by Tony Jones, who only has three career carries for 13 yards.
It’s apparent that the coaching staff believes that the 23-year-old can be an important part of the attack this year, and should get a chance to show what he can do even when Kamara is active.
Jones spent four years at the University of Notre Dame, and handled a college career-high 144 carries in his senior season.