Person familiar with situation: running back Mark Ingram returning to Saints on 4-year deal

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NEW ORLEANS — A person familiar with the situation says New Orleans Saints running back Mark Ingram has agreed to a four-year contract extension.

The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the Saints have not announced a new contract with Ingram, who was due to become a free agent next week.

Ingram later posted a brief comment on the social media site Twitter, writing that he is "Very excited to stay a Saint!!"

Ingram was one of two first-round picks by New Orleans in 2011, the other being defensive end Cameron Jordan.

Before last season began, the Saints chose not to exercise Ingram's option for 2015.

Ingram, a former Heisman Trophy winner out of Alabama, proceeded to have the best season of his career in 2014. He rushed for 964 yards and nine touchdowns to go with 145 yards receiving and was selected to play in his first Pro Bowl.

Financial terms of the contract, first reported by ESPN, have not been released.

Ingram first few seasons were frustrating ones for him, in part because of various injuries and also because he was playing in pass-heavy offense. Even when the Saints ran the ball early in Ingram's career, carries were split among a backfield that included Pierre Thomas and Darren Sproles, both of whom are no longer with the club.

Sproles was traded before the 2014 season. Thomas also missed five games with rib and shoulder injuries as Ingram became more of a featured running back.

Ingram put up career-best numbers despite missing three games last season with a broken hand.

This past week, the Saints released Thomas, meaning Ingram could get more opportunities to run the screen plays at which Thomas excelled. Ingram has said he wants more opportunities to catch the ball, having learned to play receiver as a kid from his father, Mark Ingram Sr., a former NFL receiver who spent much of his career with the New York Giants.

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