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Saints Nation: 2010 Should be a Lesson Not to Trade Chris Ivory

The Saints are loaded at running back and they’ll likely have to cut Travaris Cadet despite his solid camp and preseason so far because they simply won’t have room for him. If no other team snatches Cadet for their 53 man roster, which is entirely possible, the Saints could place him on the practice squad at that point. The Saints will likely keep four halfbacks – Mark Ingram, Darren Sproles, Pierre Thomas and Chris Ivory. Of those four, Ivory is the only one that is not guaranteed at 53 man roster spot, although he’s a clear favorite based on his track record. There’s been discussion that with the emergence of Cadet, the Saints might be best to hang on to the undrafted rookie as their 4th back and trade Ivory while his cost is low and he still has value. My guess is the Saints could get a conditional 5th round pick at best out of Ivory if a team is desperate enough, though a 6th round pick seems more likely. Still, on a team who’s scouting department has had some success in finding late round contributors, a 6th round could be a worthwhile return. I was even on board to ship out Ivory thinking that Cadet is more versatile and seems to be a better fit in the Saints’ offense, at first. But after thinking about it – the 2010 season should be a lesson to all of us. The Saints should try to keep both. They should attempt to get Cadet on the practice squad, essentially giving them 4 “active” backs and another in reserve in case something happens. More than anything, trading Ivory is a move they could regret down the road and the return wouldn’t be worth the risk.

Let’s consider what happened in 2010. The Saints entered the season with a pretty clear picture of what their depth chart would look like. With Reggie Bush, Pierre Thomas,  Lynell Hamilton and P.J. Hill/Chris Ivory, they felt loaded at running back. The Saints even let P.J. Hill go despite an oustanding preseason because they felt so loaded. Then disaster struck. Lynell Hamilton tore his knee ligaments and would never play a down. Pierre Thomas wrecked his ankle so badly early in the season he would only play 6 mediocre games. Reggie Bush broke his leg and only played 8 games. Chris Ivory would be thrust into the main role on a consistent basis and to his credit he performed very well in a breakout type of season. That was, until he himself suffered knee issues and hamstring problems and wasn’t able to finish out the season. Over the course of that year the Saints’ roster would also include Julius Jones, Ladell Betts, DeShawn Wynn and Joique Bell as backs on the roster. Injuries got so bad that by the time the playoff game against the Seahawks ended, the Saints were using fullback Heath Evans as their third down receiving back because they had no one else left.  

It’s important to note that Chris Ivory still brings tremendous value to the equation for the Saints. He has a unique skillset as an in between the tackles power runner, and Mark Ingram is the only player on the roster that comes close to matching what he can do. In two seasons Ivory’s career rushing average is 5.0 yards per carry, which is absurdly high. That’s a luxury in your 4th back too good to pass up in my opinion. If you were getting a 3rd round pick for him I could see some disagreeing, but that likely wouldn’t be the case. Granted, 2010 was a perfect storm of injuries at one position and the Saints could play 20 years and not have that kind of bad luck again that required the Saints to carry 7 different running backs over the course of a season. Still, to have four on the active roster and one promising player on the practice squad is a much safer move than trading Ivory and just rolling with four guys, one being an unproven Cadet.

Consider the injury history of the guys the Saints feature as well. Mark Ingram was injured most of his rookie season and isn’t 100% at the moment, Pierre Thomas had major problems in 2010 and was knocked out cold in the playoffs last year, and Chris Ivory himself has had health issues as mentioned above. Only Darren Sproles has proven to be consistently durable, though he also missed the 2005 season due to injury, and at 5’6″ you can’t exactly count on his frame to take a regular beating. So the old adage is true especially when you consider the brittle nature of the Saints’ talented group of runners – “you can never have too many good runners”. Chris Ivory needs to stay right here in New Orleans this season because the return wouldn’t outweigh the risk. There’s a chance he could sit the majority of the season on the bench of the three guys ahead of him stayed healthy, but odds are very slim that would be the case. At some point this season my guess is he’ll get regular reps and a shot to contribute.

Your thoughts on trading him vs. keeping him?