Saints will let RB Khiry Robinson hit free agent market

The New Orleans Saints are not expected to make a contract tender to restricted free agent running back Khiry Robinson according to a league source, which will allow Robinson to hit the open market.

Robinson, 26, remains open to returning to New Orleans according to the source, depending on how things shake out. The Saints needed to offer Robinson a one-year deal worth at least $1.67 million to maintain their right to match any other offer he got.

The Saints’ decision is a bit surprising, since Robinson has shown so much potential the past three years as a backup. But they have several other options, including Mark Ingram, C.J. Spiller, Marcus Murphy and unrestricted free agents Tim Hightower and Travaris Cadet.

This makes it seem even more likely the Saints will try to bring back Hightower, who was tremendous during the final month of last season. And they don’t really have room for both Hightower and Robinson, especially considering they have much greater needs at other positions and precious little salary-cap space.

That being said, I wouldn’t be surprised if Robinson thrives elsewhere and make the Saints regret letting him go. The same thing happened with Chris Ivory, whom they traded to the Jets in 2013.

Robinson finished last season on injured reserve with a fractured tibia that he suffered in November, but is expected to make a full recovery.

He came out of nowhere as an undrafted rookie out of West Texas A&M in 2013. No team even signed him after the draft. He joined the Saints after a three-day tryout at their rookie minicamp.

Robinson emerged late in that rookie season, however, with Saints coach Sean Payton’s mentor Bill Parcells even comparing him to Curtis Martin. Robinson had a total of 766 yards and eight touchdowns in three seasons.

He did have off-the-field issues last year. Sources confirmed to ESPN that Robinson was fined by the team for striking an intern during training camp. Pro Football Talk reported Robinson struck the intern after a dispute about whether Robinson owed the intern money for driving him on an errand.

The Saints have three other restricted free agents: guards Tim Lelito and Senio Kelemete, and tight end Josh Hill. It’s possible all three of them could be retained -- especially Lelito, who figures to be one of the team’s starting guards this year.

The minimum RFA tender is $1.67 million, which would come with no draft-pick compensation. Or the Saints could offer $2.55 million to require other teams to give up a second-round pick if they sign the player and the Saints don’t match.