Sunday, January 17, 2021

Henry contract caps market for Kenyan Drake in ’21

With the Arizona Cardinals and Kenyan Drake still in the mood for a contract extension 2019 rushing leader Derrick Henry signed himself a contract extension with the Tennessee Titans. That deal, worth $50 million over 4-years will set the market for feature backs over the coming seasons, and is likely good news for the birds.

As we discussed here, we feel the absolute least the team can pay Kenyan Drake in an extension is $25 million over 3 years. That’s Melvin Gordon type money, and when you consider that Drake has yet to prove to be an every down ride-or-die kind of guy, that’s not unreasonable.

Kenyan Drake now has a ceiling

But at a time when the market for second contracts for running backs is becoming thinner the Derrick Henry deal is telling. The reason Melvin Gordon is now in Denver was because the Chargers felt they could better spend their money in other places. Running backs are deemed disposable, and easily replaceable, unless they are special.

How do you define special? You’re looking at Christian McCaffrey, Saquon Barkley, and Derrick Henry. You were looking at Todd Gurley, but then Gurley’s knees decreased his value to the point were his level of production was deemed replaceable. And that’s when the market shifted.

Derrick Henry’s deal is a smart move from him. Posting his second consecutive 1,000+ season, and carrying his team to the AFC Championship game, Henry locked in $25 million in guarantees at one of the most volatile positions in football. The man is a beast, forced 58 missed tackles on 303 carries, and gained 1,539 yards at 5.1 per carry.

Think that’s not that special? You may be right. But what makes Henry special was that of his 1,539 yards, 1,268 were after contact. That’s 82.4% of his yards were after first contact. That’s what you pay for, something another running back can’t do.

Henry deal sets market for Kenyan Drake in '21
Kenyan Drake has had his ceiling set by Derrick Henry’s new deal

And Derrick Henry is the fifth highest-paid running back in the NFL. And that sets Kenyan Drake’s ceiling. Because unless he shows something remarkable in 2020 he’s not worth that investment.

So while Derrick Henry did what was good for him, the market for Kenyan Drake is now in the $7-million to $11-million per year range. Maximum.

Don’t get me wrong, Kenyan Drake is a very different back to Derrick Henry. He’s more in the Alvin Kamara mold, but without the production. But to this point, the Saints haven’t hammered out an extension with Kamara who is enterring the final year of his rookie deal.

This is likely because the Saints were looking to pay less than the $16 million per than CMC got from the Panthers.

Kenyan Drake will likely have to accept less than he was hoping for in his next contract, and the Cardinals will have Derrick Henry to thank in some way for making that become a reality.

Unless, of course, Kenyan Drake explodes in 2020.

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