Should the Arizona Cardinals sign Kenyan Drake to a long-term contract extension?

Should the Arizona Cardinals sign Kenyan Drake to a long-term contract extension?

Cue the “Grand Kenyan” memes and t-shirts already being made. If you didn’t know who Kenyan Drake was before yesterday, you sure know who he is now. He’s the guy who quintupled his touchdown total on the year by scoring four of them yesterday against the Cleveland Browns. He’s the guy who will make Arizona question whether they want to sign him to a long-term extension, or keep rolling with David Johnson, who has underwhelmed and slid all the way down to third on the Cardinals depth chart. Should Arizona sign him to a longer term contract extension?

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Since Arizona rescued Drake from the NFL abyss that is the Miami Dolphins, he’s been nothing short of dominant. He was given an opportunity with both Johnson and their other runningChase Edmonds banged up. As hard as it may be to believe, this was the first time in all of 2019 that Drake was actually on the winning side of an NFL game.

Kenyan Drake is set to be an unrestricted free agent after this year, and if he keeps up this torrid pace, Arizona will seriously have to consider signing him to a multi-year deal. It will be a tricky proposition if they do, however.

A few years ago, David Johnson, a third round pick of a lesser-known college in Northern Iowa, set the world on fire as an excellent dual threat out of the backfield, posting more than 2,000 scrimmage yards and scoring 20 touchdowns (16 rushing, 4 receiving). It looked like the sky was the limit for Johnson, and everyone wondered if he could be even better in 2017. He even set a very lofty goal for himself in 2017, saying that he wanted to surpass 1,000 yards rushing and 1,000 yards receiving.

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Johnson looked well on his way to starting the 2017 season off with a bang, until he pulled up with a wrist injury about halfway through their first game of the season against Detroit. It was later revealed that Johnson dislocated his wrist, effectively ending his season before it even got started. 

That didn’t scare Arizona off, however, as the Cardinals showed their faith in him by rewarding him with a 3 year, 39 million dollar contract a few days before the start of the 2018 season. Since signing that contract, Johnson has simply not looked like the explosive dual threat we all saw in 2016. Part of that can be blamed on the Cardinals not being a good team as a whole, but it’s clear that something is missing.

Now, as we get towards the end of the 2019 season, Johnson has disappeared from the Cardinals offensive gameplan entirely. What’s even worse is that both Drake and Chase Edmonds have looked better than Johnson this year, and Arizona is left with the dilemma of either sticking with their guy in Johnson, or trying to move on and find a new backfield bellcow to lean on.

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I think the answer to whether they sign him or not lies somewhere in the middle. While Drake has the pedigree and the talent to succeed, Arizona will surely be hesitant to hand him an extension given how much money they already have committed to the running back position. Running back is becoming a more replaceable position in the NFL, and Arizona could choose to use their financial resources elsewhere, especially given the running back talent and depth of the upcoming NFL draft class.

Arizona is a very young team right now, without too many huge player contracts to worry about. They have enough financial flexibility to sign Drake to a healthy contract extension, but should they? As a beleaguered Cardinals fan, I know just from watching all their games that they have much more pressing needs at multiple other positions, namely their offensive line and almost any position on the defense.

Should the Arizona Cardinals sign Kenyan Drake to a long term contract extension? Yes, but only if they can get a discount. If Drake demands more than eight to nine million dollars per year which he very well could do considering how good he’s been this year, Arizona would be wise to let him walk. Let’s not forget how short the average lifespan of an NFL running back is, especially considering Drake will turn 26 before the 2020 season. Having two pricier running backs approaching age 30 (the kiss of death for production at that position) is not a recipe for success in 2020. 

Arizona simply has too many pressing needs elsewhere to justify spending anything more than 7-8 million dollars per year on a second running back. The defense has been historically bad, and Arizona has to invest more in their offensive line in order to protect the future of their franchise in Kyler Murray. Kenyan Drake is the running back they deserve, but not the one they need right now (cue the not-so-subtle Dark Knight reference).

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