On one hand, New Orleans Saints running back Mark Ingram intially was "shocked" watching so many familiar faces and friends, most notably fellow rusher Darren Sproles, become former teammates as the offseason has progressed.

On the other hand, Ingram can't help but express excitement going into the 2014 season as it's becoming more apparent the Saints will extend an increased role for their 2011 first-round pick.

"It's a double-edged sword," Ingram said Sunday afternoon at an autograph signing at Dick's Sporting Goods in Slidell.

Ingram has kept an eye on all of the Saints' purging of veterans throughout this offseason, including cornerback Jabari Greer, linebackers Will Smith and Jonathan Vilma, and safety Roman Harper. But the moves really started to hit home for Ingram when the team decided to move on without Sproles and wide receiver Lance Moore.

Sproles' departure hit Ingram the hardest as the two have spent the past three seasons developing a bond.

"He's great player, a great guy, a great friend of mine," Ingram said of Sproles. "I just saw him yesterday (Saturday). He's doing fine. He's feeling good and excited about moving on to another chapter of his career.

"He'll be a great player for somebody else."

Sproles' official release likely will come Monday, but the future of veteran tailback Pierre Thomas remains in question. Thomas' name has been bandied about in trade talks, but if that doesn't succeed he'll possibly become another salary cap casualty ($2.9 million cap figure in 2014) before the start of the new NFL fiscal year Tuesday.

"Everything has been shocking," Ingram said. "If something did happen to Pierre, it would be a shocker, too. It would be completely different. I would be the oldest guy in the (running backs meeting) room.

"It's crazy to think about, and it's shocking with everything going on. But it's just the business side of everything. Those guys in the front office are doing what they think is best to have success this year."

Whether Thomas remains with the team or not, Ingram and second-year tailback Khiry Robinson appear to be the future at running back for the Saints after successful outings in two postseason games last season.

Ingram began to shine late in the 2013 season with a bruising performance in Week 16 against Carolina with 83 rushing yards on 13 carries. He carried that forward for 97 yards on 18 carries and a touchdown in the Saints' wild-card playoff win in Philadelphia.