Sunday, January 17, 2021

Kenyan Drake signs tender for 2020, but what next?

Arizona Cardinal’s starting running back Kenyan Drake has signed his one-year free agency transition tender. The deal will see Drake earn a cool $8.483 million for the 2020 season, and then become an unrestricted free agent.

Having acquired him from Miami during the 2019 season for a 6th round pick, Drake exploded for 115 yards rushing and a touchdown in his first game as a Cardinal. HIs form over the remainder of the season made previous starter David Johnson disposable and effectively facilitated the acquisition of DeAndre Hopkins.

What happens with Kenyan Drake in 2021

The transition tender will make Drake the 6th highest-paid running back in the NFL by average per year, which begs the question of how much it will cost to keep him after 2020. While Drake had some spectacular games for the Cards in 2019, including a 166-yard 2-touchdown performance against Seattle, and 137-yards and 4-touchdowns against the Browns, he also had some very poor games.

While at the top end Drake is clearly worth $8 million per, at the bottom end, such as 31 yards on 13 carries, or 37 yards on 11 carries against the Rams and Steelers respectively speak of a much lower salary. And this is the dilemma with Kenyan Drake.

Perennially underused, Kenyan Drake has very little wear on his tires to this point in his career. A four-year rusher with only 456 carries to his name, and 144 receptions. Boasting an impressive 4.8 yards per carry, and 7.7 per reception, you wonder why the kid has never been deployed more and to greater effect.

Kenyan Drake put in some big performances in 2019
Kenyan Drake put in some big performances in 2019

With a one-year deal in the bag, Kenyan Drake now holds all the leverage. The Cardinals can choose to see how he plays in 2020, and risk him finally becoming that every game superstar that he has flashed in his career so far. Or he may flame out and prove he’s not worth that long-term deal. Either way Arizona kind of loses. We’ll see one good season and then he’ll likely be out the door.

With the cautionary tale of David Johnson so recently out the door, the idea of signing Kenyan Drake to a 3-year $25 million deal is slightly painful for Cardinals fans to ponder. But if the team were looking to get a long-term deal done before the season starts, this is likely the floor of that deal.

In a league that is balking at second big contracts for running backs it may seem unlikely that Drake will hit these heights, but remember he has only seen about two years worth of work. Establishing a consistent set of weapons around Kyler Murray will be important for his growth over the next few seasons, and keeping Kenyan Drake around would be a really good start.

But it may come at a steep price.

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