Saints don't pick up Ingram option

— -- As expected, the New Orleans Saints did not exercise their fifth-year option on running back Mark Ingram, a league source confirmed.

That means Ingram will be a free agent following this season.

It doesn't, however, mean that the Saints are down on Ingram. They're still high on the potential of the former Heisman Trophy winner and first-round draft choice from Alabama -- especially after his strong finish to the 2013 season.

However, it would have cost $5.2 million to extend Ingram through the 2015 season, which is more than the going rate for free agent running backs in the NFL these days. And Ingram is a part-time back who is expected to share the load with Pierre Thomas and Khiry Robinson this season.

Ingram's three-year NFL career has been a bit of a roller coaster so far, thanks to injuries and inconsistency. He has run for 1,462 yards with 11 touchdowns in 37 regular-season games. However, he finished strong last season with 249 yards over his final four games -- including 18 carries for 97 yards and a touchdown in the Saints' 26-24 playoff victory at Philadelphia.

The Saints had two first-round draft choices in 2011. They snagged defensive end Cameron Jordan with their original pick at No. 24 overall then traded up to get Ingram with the 28th pick.

New Orleans did exercise its fifth-year option on Jordan last month, which came at a price tag of $6.969 million for the 2015 season.