Alvin Kamara’s future with the Saints is the $16 million question lingering in New Orleans with just 11 days until the team is scheduled to play the Buccaneers in Week 1.
The festering Kamara drama crescendoed on Tuesday afternoon when it was revealed that the running back had not reported to practice in at least four days amid growing contract negotiation tensions, immediately sparking interest across the NFL community.
ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler reported early Wednesday morning that the “Saints were open to trading Kamara for a [first-round pick] in light of absence,” and “four teams inquired about Kamara [on Tuesday].”
The disgruntled, 2017 third-round pick is entering the final year of his rookie deal which pays him $2.13 million in salary in 2020, according to Over the Cap. He is seeking a deal somewhere between the four-year, $48 million extension Joe Mixon received from the Bengals this week, and the precedent-setting contract Christian McCaffrey received from the Panthers in April for four years, $64 million.
Kamara, who is expected to return to practice on Wednesday, is reportedly “not” asking for “Christian McCaffrey money,” sources told Fowler.
The NFL insider added that the two sides are continuing to work towards an agreement and, “are not far apart in negotiations,” which have “calmed down” since the fever pitch this week.
Any long-term contract extension will likely require some salary-cap maneuvering on behalf of the Saints, whose window for a championship run is closing quickly. In addition to Drew Brees turning 42 this January, the team is woefully overleveraged and is expected to be $39.2 million over the 2021 cap.
Kamara, 25, is one of the league’s premier running backs and has been integral in the Saints’ success. As a duel threat, the Tennessee product has tallied 2,408 rushing yards and 27 touchdowns, as well as 243 catches for 2,068 receiving yards and 10 touchdowns through three seasons. He was named NFL Rookie of the Year in 2017 and has earned Pro Bowl honors in all three seasons since entering the league.