With NFL free agency quickly approaching on the horizon, Arizona Cardinals RB Kenyan Drake could very well be looking for a new landing spot next week. After a year and a half of mixed results in Arizona, Drake could look to fill a vacancy on a new team in 2021.
A standout performer in 2019, Cardinals RB Kenyan Drake underwhelmed in 2020
Taken in the third round by the Miami Dolphins in 2016, Kenyan Drake escaped the after-effects of Adam Gase halfway through the 2019 season. While most go to Arizona to relax, Drake was all about his work and turned out one of the best second halves in recent memory.
Drake averaged 5.2 yards per carry on 123 carries in his eight games, totaling 643 yards and 8 rushing touchdowns. He was also an asset in the receiving game, catching 28 of his 35 targets for 171 yards. Included in this stretch was a two-game period (Weeks 12 and 13) where Drake had 303 yards on 46 carries (6.59 ypc) and 6 touchdowns.
The Cardinals felt Kenyan Drake fit their offense perfectly and ended up trading David Johnson heading into the 2020 season, leaving Drake as the lead back. Unfortunately for both sides, Kenyan Drake was never able to capture the same magic.
Drake was not the same player in 2020 we all were hoping for as the RB1
Missing only one game during the season, Drake failed to hit the 1,000-yard milestone. He saw 239 carries, rushing for 995 yards (4.0 ypc). Since 2010, there have been 126 occurrences of RBs that saw 235 rushing attempts or more in a season. However, only nine times did the RB fail to hit 1,000 yards. A list Kenyan Drake would rather not be a part of (if I were to guess).
The saving grace for Drake in 2020 came with his 10 touchdowns. He also saw his passing work decreased, seeing only 31 targets, catching 25 for 137 yards.
From an efficiency standpoint, Chase Edmonds was the sparkplug for the Cardinals. While he saw 114 fewer touches, he was just 224 scrimmage yards behind Drake, thanks to his 5.7 yards per touch average compared to Drake’s 4.1.
Throw in Edmonds’ increased usage and the NFL’s unwillingness to pay running backs going into their second contract, and Kenyan Drake is set to begin the process of finding a new landing spot once free agency opens up.
A reduced 2021 salary cap will heavily impact potential landing spots for RBs like Kenyan Drake
Due to lost revenue of the 2020 season, the NFL salary cap took a massive hit. Adam Schefter recently reported the 2021 salary cap will be $182.5 million.
Because of this, teams will be cash-strapped and have to make difficult decisions regarding veterans and how bullish they can be in free agency. The one position that will have the most significant impact is the running back position. With the NFL moving towards more committee-style approaches, fewer players are getting bell-cow contracts despite their talent.
Also, Kenyan Drake has never been a true workhorse-style RB. In the modern NFL, he has the skill set to be a perfect complement to another back while knowing that if anything happens, the team will have a legitimate RB1.
As he hits free agency, where are some potential landing spots for Cardinals RB Kenyan Drake in 2021?
The Arizona Cardinals could still end up being the landing spot for RB Kenyan Drake in free agency
I know I said all of that about them being ready to move on, but at the same time, is Edmonds really who they want to hitch their wagon to? According to Spotrac, Arizona has $21.87 million in cap space, and Drake’s estimated market value is $8.3 million on a two-year, $16.71 million contract.
Running back is a position of need for the Cardinals. And honestly, this is not a great running back class outside of Aaron Jones and Chris Carson. I expect the Cardinals to add someone in the draft, but it depends on how much capital they invest.
There is still a chance the Cardinals end up being the landing spot for Kenyan Drake once free agency wraps up. While they chose not to tag or extend him, letting him test the market could result in a lower contract cost if he finds the market to be a bit bare given the reduced salary cap.
The Atlanta Falcons might be another landing spot for Cardinals RB Kenyan Drake
I think we can all agree that Todd Gurley is not coming back to Atlanta, leaving the position in limbo. Head coach Arthur Smith wants to have a rushing attack, and they could be a landing spot for Kenyan Drake.
The hard part of this scenario will be the spending space. The Falcons still are $7.60 million over the cap and need a massive overhaul of the defense.
Both the New York Jets and Jacksonville Jaguars are logical landing spots for Cardinals RB Kenyan Drake
I bring these two teams together because they are both 99% likely to select a QB in the draft. If that is the case, a rookie QB will benefit from a rushing attack.
Between these two teams, no question the Jaguars are already in the better position. James Robinson had a sensational year, but they have come forward saying they want to bring in more RBs.
As for the Jets, well, Frank Gore was their leading rusher in 2020. That should tell you all you need to know. Kenyan Drake could be a great fit in the Shanahan wide-zone attack the Jets will implement under Mike LaFleur.
Cardinals RB Kenyan Drake could find himself landing in Green Bay before free agency is over
Aaron Jones is hitting free agency, leaving A.J. Dillon to take over the lead role in Green Bay’s offense. If Matt LaFleur believes they need another complementary back, it is hard to do better than Kenyan Drake.
Drake can work out of the backfield and has the speed to rip off a long run. The Packers took A.J. Dillon high in last year’s draft in preparation for losing Jones. Green Bay as a landing spot for Kenyan Drake gives the Packers a great thunder and lightning backfield.
It will take a combination like this to make up for the massive hole Aaron Jones is leaving behind. But to make this happen, the Packers need to navigate their way out of the $8.26 million hole they are in right now.
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