Alvin Kamara Talks Future Saints Contract, Playing with Torn Knee Injury in 2019

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured ColumnistAugust 11, 2020

New Orleans Saints running back Alvin Kamara (41) during the first half of an NFL football game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers Sunday, Nov. 17, 2019, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Mark LoMoglio)
Mark LoMoglio/Associated Press

There was apparently a very good reason why New Orleans Saints star Alvin Kamara finished with a career-low 1,330 yards from scrimmage in 2019.    

Master Tesfatsion of Bleacher Report reported the running back tore his MCL in New Orleans' Week 6 win over the Jacksonville Jaguars. Tesfatsion shared a clip of the play in which Kamara suffered the injury:

Master @MasterTes

Saints RB Alvin Kamara played through most of 2019 with a torn MCL in his knee. Here’s when the injury occurred in Week 6 against the Jaguars. He missed just two games, and finished the season with 1,330 total yards. https://t.co/6EiNOpEhzd

On Monday, the three-time Pro Bowler explained the impact of the injury to ESPN's Mike Triplett:      

"[In the past], I normally wouldn't even think twice about being able to break a tackle or bounce it outside or turn a 2-yard gain into 10. But last year was a lot of just, 'Get what I can get and go down and don't do too much because I could possibly hurt my knee more or it's too painful to even think about making another move.

"So it was a lot of -- I wouldn't say 'uncharacteristic' because obviously I was injured. But it wasn't what I would like to put on film."

In March, Kamara alluded to a leg injury he was dealing with last season:

Alvin Kamara @A_kamara6

On 1 leg... At 75%.. but we back to 100 ❤️ https://t.co/dYMblYKNU0

Kamara is approaching the final year of his rookie deal with the Saints, so a return to form in 2020 could result in a big payday. For the time being, he isn't pressing the matter.

"It'll happen when it happens," Kamara said. "Me and my agent talked briefly about it, and I told him, 'Don't tell me anything about a contract until it's like something where it's happening or there's something I need to know.'"

Kamara ended up missing two games immediately after the Saints' Week 6 clash with Jacksonville.

The injury didn't appear to have significantly hindered his performance, though. He averaged 4.3 yards per carry and 8.4 yards per reception through New Orleans' first six games. Those numbers were 5.0 and 5.4, respectively, over the remainder of the year.

New Orleans did scale back his workload. Kamara's carries through Week 6 (86) narrowly eclipsed how many carries he logged in his final eight appearances (85).

Teams are generally wary of spending big on running backs once their rookie contracts end.

Todd Gurley is a prime example of how that move can go wrong. The Los Angeles Rams released Gurley in March, two years after signing him to a four-year, $60 million extension.

However, the Carolina Panthers just gave Christian McCaffrey a four-year, $64.1 million extension, with his $16 million annual salary the highest ever for a running back.

McCaffrey is a somewhat special case because he's coming off a season in which he eclipsed 1,000 yards both on the ground and through the air. His 2,392 yards from scrimmage were the most in the NFL.

Kamara isn't yet on McCaffrey's level, but his representatives will almost certainly point to his versatility to argue why he would be a safer investment than a more traditional running back. Kamara's 243 receptions are second only to McCaffrey for a running back over his first three years in the league, per Pro Football Reference.

The franchise tag will be available for the Saints to use on Kamara next offseason. Were the 25-year-old to have a monster year in the season ahead, he might be able to leverage that into a deal that provides him with more long-term security.