Kenyan Drake

Injury Updates: McCaffrey, Fulton, Carson, Drake

Panthers superstar Christian McCaffrey returned to practice Monday, which is certainly a welcome sign considering he hasn’t been out there since Week 2. While it’s a step in the right direction, it doesn’t mean McCaffrey will be suiting up for Carolina on Thursday Night Football this week. In fact, CMAC is a “long-shot” to play in their division game against the Falcons, a source told Ian Rapoport of NFL Network (Twitter link).

Mike Davis took over as the Panthers’ running back and got off to a hot start, but he’s since cooled off significantly and only had 12 rushing yards yesterday. As such, McCaffrey’s return can’t come quick enough. The Panthers are now 3-4 and desperately need a win over Atlanta if they want to stay in the NFC playoff picture. McCaffrey went down with a high ankle sprain in their Week 2 game against the Bucs and has been sidelined ever since.

Here’s more health updates from around the league:

  • The Titans lost their first game of the season on Sunday, and they also lost a key piece of their defense for a while. Rookie cornerback Kristian Fulton will miss a “few weeks” with a knee injury, according to veteran beat writer Paul Kuharsky (Twitter link). Kuharsky writes that it’s unclear if he’ll go on injured reserve, which would require him to miss at least three games. A second-round pick in April’s draft, Fulton has started the Titans’ last two games after missing one on the COVID-19 list. Tennessee’s secondary has already struggled mightily, so this is an unwelcome development for Mike Vrabel’s unit.
  • The Bengals have already had a tough time blocking for Joe Burrow, and Cincy fans everywhere were holding their breath when starting left tackle Jonah Williams went down with a neck injury yesterday. Fortunately, the “early indications” are that the injury is not “overly serious,” a source told Ian Rapoport of NFL Network (Twitter link). Rapsheet says Williams may miss this week, but there is some optimism he could return after their Week 9 bye. The 11th overall pick of the 2019 draft, Williams missed his entire rookie season with a shoulder injury but had played every snap this year before going down.
  • Williams isn’t the only member of the Bengals’ offensive line banged up, as starting right tackle Bobby Hart also got hurt against Cleveland. Hart will miss this weekend’s game against Tennessee, head coach Zac Taylor announced Monday. Hart had also started all seven games this season, and now it looks like Burrow might be without each of his starting tackles this season. Given that he’s already been running for his life in most weeks, this could be a recipe for disaster.
  • The Seahawks also lost their first game of the season Sunday, and now it looks like they’ll be without starting running back Chris Carson for a while. Carson suffered a mid-foot sprain that will leave him week to week, Rapoport tweets. While Carson will apparently miss some time it doesn’t sound like anything too serious, and he shouldn’t be on the shelf too long. Fellow running back Travis Homer also got hurt on Sunday night, and we’re still waiting on an update on him.
  • The Cardinals beat Seattle on Sunday night, but unfortunately the recently signed linebacker Isaiah Irving suffered a serious injury and had to be carted off. Irving suffered a back injury that will likely sideline him for the rest of the season, a source told Josh Weinfuss of ESPN.com (Twitter link). Signed off Denver’s practice squad a couple of weeks ago, Irving was in his first game with the Cards and was only playing on special teams, so this won’t have too much impact on Arizona’s defense. Hopefully Irving is able to make a swift and full recovery.
  • Irving wasn’t the only Cardinal to go down. Starting running back Kenyan Drake hurt his ankle, and he’s going to miss some time. Drake will miss a few weeks with a slight ligament tear in his ankle, a source told Adam Schefter of ESPN.com (Twitter link). Chase Edmonds, the highly talented change of pace back, will now get a chance to shine in Drake’s absence. Fortunately Arizona has a bye in Week 8, which will reduce the number of games Drake has to miss. Schefter adds that the team is treating the ligament issue essentially like a high ankle sprain.
  • Chargers tight end Virgil Green came down with a crucial touchdown in Los Angeles’ win over the Jaguars, but unfortunately he hurt himself on the play. Green will miss several weeks with a lateral ankle sprain, Rapoport tweets, and he’s a candidate for injured reserve. The Chargers still have Hunter Henry of course, but this is a significant blow as they like to run multiple tight end sets. Second-year UDFA from Stetson Donald Parham also caught a touchdown from Justin Herbert on Sunday, and should be in line for more playing time moving forward. Green, in his third season with the Chargers, has always been more of a blocker than receiver during his ten-year career.

Latest On Cardinals, Kenyan Drake

While the NFL collectively batted .143 in extensions for franchise-tagged players (2-for-14) this year, the one player to receive the transition tag this year has a bit more time.

The Cardinals have until July 22 to extend Kenyan Drake, but Ian Rapoport of NFL.com notes the sides are not believed to be close on terms. This continues the current trend on the extension front (Twitter link). Drake is not too concerned about an extension at the moment, tweeting that one will come in “due time.”

Cards GM Steve Keim said in April he had begun negotiating with Drake, who signed his transition tender days after the Cardinals applied it. Should the 26-year-old back not agree to an extension by next week, he will be tied to his $8.483MM salary this season.

Despite rostering David Johnson at the time, the Cardinals traded for Drake and saw the ex-Dolphins contributor produce immediately. Drake totaled 814 scrimmage yards in just eight Cards games. That number is not too far off Drake’s 2018 Dolphins season, when he amassed 1,012 scrimmage yards in 16 games while splitting work with Frank Gore. Drake averaged 5.2 yards per carry with the Cards last season, after gaining just 3.7 per tote in six Dolphins tilts.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Poll: How Many Tagged Players Will Land Extensions?

A day away from the deadline for franchise-tagged players to sign extensions, the NFL finally saw a player from this year’s group do so. The Chiefs’ Chris Jones extension represents the outlier move thus far. Discounting Jones’ deal, how many more tagged players will sign by the 3pm CT deadline Wednesday?

The 14 remaining tagged players reside in limbo for various reasons — from uncertainties about their career trajectories to the pandemic clouding the NFL’s financial future. There could be plenty of players going through the 2020 season on guaranteed one-year deals, which would both table key negotiations for several months and add to the 2021 free agent market.

Here is how everything looks with the tagged group as of Tuesday afternoon:

Already Signed Tag

*Received transition tag (vs. franchise tag)

Hasn’t Signed Tag, Won’t Hold Out

Hasn’t Signed Tag, Threatening Holdout

More players were tagged this year than in 2018 and ’19 combined. This represents the largest contingent of tagged performers since 2012, when 19 were tagged. That also came in an era when of salary cap stagnancy. After steady cap growth since 2014, the league’s best hope may be for the 2021 cap to plateau. The coronavirus has threatened to keep fans out of stadiums, with limited capacity being the likely best-case scenario. That will cost the league upwards of $3 billion, and the NFL-NFLPA talks about how to manage this have transpired for several weeks without a resolution.

But deadlines, per the cliche, incite action. Will this year be the exception? Are teams willing to carry big tag salaries on their books? Or will they prefer that to signing off on long-term extensions before the cap reality clears up? Vote in PFR’s latest poll (link for app users) and weigh in with your thoughts in the comments section.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Status Of All 15 Tagged Players Prior to July 15 Extension Deadline

The clock is ticking for tagged players to sign extensions with their teams, per the league calendar.

July 15: At 4:00 p.m., New York time, deadline for any club that designated a Franchise Player to sign such player to a multiyear contract or extension. After this date, the player may sign only a one-year contract with his prior club for the 2020 season, and such contract cannot be extended until after the club’s last regular season game.

With less than nine days remaining until the deadline, let’s take a look at where each of the 15 tagged players stand.

Already Signed Tag

*Received transition tag (vs. franchise tag)

Haven’t Signed Tag, Won’t Hold Out

Haven’t Signed Tag, Threatening Hold Out

Cardinals Discussing Deals With DeAndre Hopkins, Kenyan Drake

Although DeAndre Hopkins and Kenyan Drake are in different contractual situations, both players are on the Cardinals’ agenda this offseason. More developments on this front emerged Wednesday.

Cards GM Steve Keim said he has engaged in discussions with the agents for both of the team’s recently acquired skill-position players. This follows a report that indicated he had spoken directly with Hopkins about his contract, which runs through 2022.

Both those guys are guys we’d like to have long-term,” Keim said, via Darren Urban of AZCardinals.com. “Again, if it makes our organization better and the opportunity arises, we will certainly do that. I’ve had communication with both their agents. We’ll continue to pound away. The draft is the most important part right now, but we will continue to have ongoing talks with both of those players’ agents.”

Drake signed his $8.5MM transition tender last month and now has a firm grip on the Cardinals’ starting running back job after the Hopkins trade included David Johnson. The Cardinals just freed themselves from what became an albatross contract, with Johnson struggling to deliver on the $13MM-per-year deal he signed in 2018.

Bill O’Brien confirmed Hopkins wanted a raise. While Nuk’s deal topped every other receiver’s when he signed it in 2017, the $16.2MM-AAV pact is now barely inside the top 10 among receivers. Teams rarely commit to new contracts for players signed for three more seasons, but the Cardinals trading for Hopkins may make this a special circumstance. With Larry Fitzgerald on a year-to-year track, Hopkins now profiles as Arizona’s No. 1 long-term target. The three-time All-Pro will surely pursue a deal that approaches Julio Jones‘ $22MM-AAV accord.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Cardinals RB Kenyan Drake Signs Tender Offer

Kenyan Drake is officially heading back to Arizona. The running back has signed his tender offer, per sports agency SportsTrust Advisors on Twitter.

We learned earlier this week that the Cardinals were slapping Drake with the transition tag. That move will ultimately cost the team around $8.5MM next season.

Of course, a whole lot has changed in Arizona since that news came out. The front office traded Drake’s competition, David Johnson, to the Texans, acquiring wideout DeAndre Hopkins in the deal. As a result, Drake will be a major contributor on one of the NFL’s up-and-coming offenses.

The team’s commitment to Drake isn’t a huge surprise following his 2019 performance. Following three-plus underwhelming seasons in Miami, the running back was dealt to Arizona midseason for a conditional sixth-rounder. The 26-year-old proceeded to have the best eight-game stretch of his career to finish out the campaign. Drake ran for 643 yards on 123 carries (good for a 5.2-yard average), adding eight touchdowns along the way. He also hauled in 28 receptions for 171 yards.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Cardinals Use Transition Tag On Kenyan Drake

With less than an hour before the franchise-transition tag deadline, we have our first transition tag of this year’s cycle. The Cardinals will use the transition tag on Kenyan Drake, Adam Schefter of ESPN.com tweets.

The NFL released its tag numbers, and the Cardinals will make by far the lowest payment of the teams that used them this year. The Drake transition tag will cost just $8.5MM. Arizona still has David Johnson on its roster on a $13MM-AAV deal. While Drake loomed as a possible tag candidate, the Cards are set to devote extensive funds to their running back spot.

While the Cardinals are the first team to deploy a transition tag this year, 12 others used their franchise tags. This will keep the former Dolphins starter off the market, but Drake can sign offer sheets with other teams. The Cardinals would not any compensation if they fail to match an offer another team submits to Drake.

Steve Keim said the Cards will not release Johnson, with a release not doing anything to help the team in the way of cap savings. It would tag Arizona with $16MM-plus in dead money. Drake supplanted Johnson as the Cards’ starter last season and was the more effective back down the stretch.

More than two years younger than Johnson, Drake, 26, averaged 5.2 yards per carry with the Cardinals after the team traded for him last season. The Dolphins used him as a part-time starter in 2018, with Frank Gore playing a major role in Miami’s backfield that season. Drake, though, profiles as a potentially strong backfield investment. He has only logged 456 carries in his career and and has totaled 822 receiving yards in the past two years.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

NFC West Rumors: Drake, Olsen, Rams

This running back market could feature Derrick Henry and Melvin Gordon, but given how most of the high-end running back contracts of recent years have not helped teams, the prices for the free agent backs might be team-friendly.

Nevertheless, Kenyan Drake is hoping to parlay his Cardinals work into a lucrative deal. The former Dolphins starter-turned-trade chip is expected to target $8-$10MM per year, according to Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports. That would come in south of the Ezekiel ElliottTodd GurleyLe’Veon BellDavid Johnson top tier but north of the rest of the field. Drake is a candidate to stay in Arizona, however, despite Johnson’s presence.

The Cardinals want to re-sign their recent trade acquisition, and the prospect of a franchise tag has surfaced. That $10MM-plus figure entering the equation would be a serious boon for Drake’s value.

Here is the latest from the NFC West:

  • ESPN’s Brady Henderson has details on Greg Olsen‘s one-year, $7MM deal with the Seahawks (Twitter link). The veteran tight end will earn a $3.75MM signing bonus with a $1.75MM base salary, leading to $5.5MM in guaranteed money. Olsen also has an extra $1.5MM in per-game roster bonuses.
  • The Rams will be without offensive guard Joseph Noteboom and center Brian Allen until the start of training camp, according to Rich Hammond of The Athletic. The fact that the team won’t have a pair of starters for much of the offseason program could influence the front office’s decision to retain impending free agent Austin Blythe and potential trade candidate Rob Havenstein.
  • We learned earlier today that despite having around only $13MM in cap space, the 49ers are motivated to keep Arik Armstead in the fold.

Ben Levine contributed to this post.

Cardinals GM Steve Keim On Drake, Fitzgerald, Offseason

It was somewhat surprising when the Cardinals traded for Kenyan Drake in advance of this year’s deadline, given that Arizona was clearly not going to make a postseason run and given that Drake is eligible for unrestricted free agency in March. But GM Steve Keim saw something he liked in the former Dolphins RB and wanted to secure exclusive negotiating rights with him.

Drake has not disappointed, averaging 4.8 yards-per-carry in his six games in Arizona to go along with five scores and 22 receptions for 130 yards. Keim touched on Drake’s future with the team and several other key issues facing the Cardinals this offseason, including Larry Fitzgerald‘s future, in an interview with Darren Urban of AZCardinals.com.

On the Drake trade:

“The mindset of going into the trade, it wasn’t done because we had two backs that were injured and was sort of a stop-gap situation. If that was a the case, my mindset was I would’ve signed a guy off the street. We truly thought this was the type of player Kenyan Drake was. That’s why we made trade and hope this was the kind of success he would have.”

On his hopes of re-signing Drake, and when he might try to do it:

“As far as waiting until after the season (to re-sign Drake), that’s not necessarily the thing either. I would certainly love to have Kenyan Drake back. I think he fits in this offense and he really has given us a spark in many ways.”

On Fitzgerald’s future (for Fitzgerald’s thoughts, see here):

“We would love to have him back. We all know what he brings to the organization. But the one thing you want to do with a player like him is give him the respect he deserves. Allow him to make that decision on his own. But I will say this. This is maybe the most fun I’ve seen him have in the last four years. He’s playing at a high level. I know he likes [head coach] Kliff [Kingsbury] and I know he likes this offense. Doesn’t hurt to have a guy (in quarterback Kyler Murray) who can spin it to him like this too.”

Keim said he will look to upgrade the Cardinals’ O-line this offseason, though he thinks the team’s high sack total is partly due to Murray’s style of play:

“I think Kyler would be the first to tell you there have been quite a few sacks given up that are on him. There has been times when I thought our offensive line has given him the type of protection he’s needed.”

On Murray himself:

“[T]here is no doubt in my mind we hit it through the roof. It’s one thing to be ultra-talented, but the guys who are the great ones, just when everybody thinks they have worked hard and done enough, those guys go above and beyond. There are up late night watching film, trying to find little tells that people don’t see. Just so the speed of the game slows down.”

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Dolphins To Trade Kenyan Drake To Cardinals

The Cardinals have reached agreement on a trade to acquire Dolphins running back Kenyan Drake, Adam Schefter of ESPN.com tweets. In the deal, the Dolphins will acquire a conditional sixth-round pick in 2020 that can become a fifth-rounder. 

Drake will help to reinforce a Cardinals RB group that badly needs the support. Star David Johnson is expected to miss this week’s game due to an ankle injury and Chase Edmonds, a key fill-in, suffered a hamstring injury of his own over the weekend. Drake now figures to see significant work against the 49ers on Thursday night.

Drake gives the Cardinals a clear boost in the near term, but he does not necessarily give them a building block for 2020 and beyond. He’ll be a free agent after the season, so they’ll have some work to do if Drake impresses in the second half of the season. For the here and now: the Cardinals seem to believe in their roster and like their chances of climbing out of a 3-4-1 hole.

The Dolphins, meanwhile, seem to be keeping their eyes on the prize – a top draft pick in 2020. With no hope of contending this year, they’ve bolstered their draft capital and unloaded a player who was unlikely to suit up again in Miami.

Drake did not travel with the Dolphins for tonight’s game against the Steelers, a move that foretold a Drake deal. The Lions and Titans were linked to Drake, but the Cardinals seem to have wanted him more.

Miami’s bottom-tier offensive line has struggled this season, and Drake is averaging a career-low 3.7 yards per carry. However, the former third-round pick posted 4.8- and 4.5-yard YPC averages in 2017 and 2018, respectively. Drake, 25, has not rushed for 50 yards in a game this season, but he surpassed 1,000 yards from scrimmage in a part-time role last year and has just 333 career carries under his belt.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.