The Saints approached Murray about a pay cut, but the running back refused to take one, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter.
Saints are releasing RB Latavius Murray, per source. They asked for a pay reduction yesterday and he refused. Murray is coming off his best season, averaging 4.5 yards per carry and 7.7 yards per catch.
— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) September 7, 2021
Murray was set to earn a $2.95 million salary for 2021, which is too much for the perennially cap-strapped Saints to carry given the reports that 2020 UDFA running back Tony Jones Jr. was emerging as the top backup behind Alvin Kamara. New Orleans will clear over $3.1 million in 2021 cap space.
Jones, a 2020 undrafted free agent out of Notre Dame, will move into the Saints’ No. 2 running back spot behind Kamara.
It wouldn’t be surprising to see Murray scooped up by a running back-needy team. The Baltimore Ravens currently have just two running backs on their roster, but they worked out free agents Le’Veon Bell, Devonta Freeman and Elijah Holyfield on Monday.
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Jones has value in the RB2 role for the Saints offense. He should be viewed in a similar manner as Murray before the veteran's release. Murray averaged just north of 11 touches per game in 2020, so Jones is worth the speculative add if he can carve out a secondary role behind Kamara. Click here to find PFF's 2021 fantasy rankings.
Jones becomes a top handcuff. Murray filled in for an injured Kamara twice in 2019 and scored 32.0 and 36.7 PPR fantasy points. If Kamara were to miss any time, Jones Jr. would become a legitimate back-end RB1 as the leader of the Saints backfield. Click here to find PFF's fantasy stats.
Saints Win Total: New Orleans continues to lose offensive pieces that played roles in their prior season's success, but the betting market seems uninterested in adjusting their win total. It has held to nine wins since before Drew Brees' retirement became official. PFF's season-long simulation is less optimistic and finds value on their under nine win total priced at -120. It's a little late to fade the Saints' party, but they could easily be one of the most overvalued teams heading into 2021. PFF's Betting Futures Tool reveals betting opportunities within season win total and future markets.
Alvin Kamara Player Props: Kamara appears to be the last man standing for a Saints' offense that has completely turned over outside of the running back position. Despite reports of Sean Payton being high on Jones, this could easily turn into one of the only three-down workloads for a running back in 2021. Kamara falls just short of his rushing yardage prop based on PFF projections, but projects to go over his 1500.5 rushing and receiving yardage number. Hammer the over, as the only thing stopping Kamara is an injury in 2021. Click here for PFF's player prop tool.
Murray is coming off two of his best rushing seasons in New Orleans: 25.3% of Murray’s carries have resulted in first downs or touchdowns since 2019, which ranks seventh among running backs with at least 250 carries, one spot ahead of Kamara. Click here for PFF's running back rankings.
Murray is one of the best pass-protecting backs in the NFL: Murray is one of just nine running backs to record an 80-plus pass-blocking grade on 200 or more pass-blocking snaps since 2014. Click here to find PFF's NFL player grades.
Jones' preseason performance made Murray expandable: Jones caught six passes on 21 routes run in the preseason, and he recorded 106 rushing yards on 12 carries. Five of those runs went for 10-plus yards. That performance gave New Orleans enough comfort at the position to release Murray. Click here to find PFF's NFL premium stats.