We could be looking at one of the biggest free agency periods in recent memory if some of the notable names actually hit the open market. Tom Brady, Drew Brees, and Derrick Henry are just a few of the big names set to hit unrestricted free agency when the new league year opens on March 18th. One or more stands a good chance of signing a contract with their current team before then, but there is a chance one or more is taking calls when the tampering period opens on March 16th.
2019 in review
Kenyan Drake was expected to be a critical piece of the Miami Dolphins offense last season but was dealt to the Arizona Cardinals six games into the year. Miami was turning into one of the worst teams in the NFL early on, and it dumped all its valuable assets to get value back ahead of the 2020 NFL Draft. Drake was extremely productive in Arizona and put together a career year. He unseated David Johnson as the Cardinals’ feature back and led the team in rushing while rushing for eight touchdowns in eight games. He finished 2019 with 817 rushing yards while splitting time between two teams and also accrued 345 receiving yards in 14 games. He could help a lot of teams in 2020 and should have plenty of options to work with.
Drake has a versatile skill set and is durable as well. Last season was the only year he didn’t play in all 16 regular season games. He has a career mark of 4.8 yards per carry but hasn’t cracked 134 in a season yet. He could climb the ranks among running backs with a heavier workload. He’s fresh off his first NFL contract and should be in for a major bump in pay. It’s just a matter of who’s willing to bet on him.
Washington has had terrible luck at running back. Derrius Guice has only appeared in five games since being drafted with a first-round pick in 2018. Adrian Peterson was serviceable for a second straight year in 2019 and will return in 2020, but the team needs fresh legs.
Another potential option is the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. They have the most cap space in the league for 2020 and have a bargain starter in Ronald Jones II, who is entering the back half of a four-year, $7 million deal. Both could be threats as traditional backs and receivers to maximize offensive potential. Tampa Bay was bottom 10 in rushing yards per game (95.1) in 2019 but had a prolific passing offense. This move could make them more well rounded.
Do the Cardinals want to keep him?
According to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport, the Cardinals could be interested in re-signing or franchise tagging Drake. Johnson’s contract would make it hard to cut him, but trade options could be explored once the season is underway. If Arizona is able to retain Drake, he’s a lock to receive the bulk of the team’s carries.
Drake was a top 20 running back last season despite moving teams in the middle of the year. He edged out Week 1 starters like Marlon Mack and Alvin Kamara. Whether he’s in Arizona or not next season, I expect him to be in a more prominent role. He has a good chance to notch career highs in carries and receptions, so his ceiling should be higher. He might not be considered an elite back by the end of 2020, but there’s a good chance he’s between 10th and 15th when it comes to fantasy production.
Drake is reportedly already discussing a new deal with the Cardinals, according to azcardinals.com. He might be off the market early, despite the fact that management isn’t willing to cut Johnson. The Tennessee Titans showed interest in trading for Drake in October and have Derrick Henry entering free agency. That could be something to monitor moving forward.