The Arizona Cardinals want to be a force on offense next season. The team inched closer to becoming an elite offense Saturday, as running back Kenyan Drake signed his transition tag tender offer.
— SportsTrust Advisors (@_SportsTrust) March 21, 2020
The move comes as a surprise, as Drake was set to hit the market. The 26-year-old Drake even wiped his Instagram page prior to free agency, suggesting he was ready for a new start.
But things have changed drastically for the Cardinals since then. The team not only placed the transition tag on Drake, but it also acquired All-Pro receiver DeAndre Hopkins from the Houston Texans. Drake’s main competition in Arizona — running back David Johnson — was sent to the Texans as part of that trade.
How does the transition tag work?
Under the tag, Drake could have participated in NFL free agency as usual, but the Cardinals would have the right to match any offer Drake received. Putting the tag on Drake allowed the Cardinals the opportunity to keep the Drake if they wanted him. It also gave them a shot to grab some draft compensation for Drake depending on how things played out.
Drake, however, decided against testing the market. By signing the offer, Drake will return to the Cardinals on a one-year deal worth a little over $8 million. The transition tag grants players a salary based on the average of the top-10 players at their position. That works out to roughly $8.5 million for Drake in 2020.
By signing the offer, Drake still has the ability to negotiate a long-term deal with the Cardinals. It’s possible his one-year deal turns into a multi-year one in the coming weeks. By putting the transition tag on Drake, the Cardinals made it clear they wanted to keep him around.
Why did Kenyan Drake sign the transition tag offer?
Until last season, Drake has been used as a part-time player in the NFL. That changed with the Cardinals, and Drake showed he could be a major offensive weapon with added carries. In eight games with the team, Drake rushed for 643 yards and eight touchdowns.
While that should have made Drake an appealing option in free agency, he may have found $8.5 million too tempting to pass up. It probably helps that Arizona gave him a chance in the first place, and that the team picked up Hopkins in the offseason. Drake knows he’ll once again have an opportunity to be the team’s primary option at running back, and that the Cardinals’ offense should be even better in 2020.
Taking the deal does come with risks, though. While an $8.5 million salary in 2020 is nice, a running back taking a one-year deal is a scary proposition. If he gets hurt or underperforms, Drake could find himself in a much worse spot a year from now.
It’s possible, however, that Drake feels he can work out a long-term deal with the Cardinals. In that scenario, Drake would secure a significant payday and remain in a place where he’s happy. Drake wouldn’t have signed the transition tag tender offer unless he wanted to stay with the Cardinals.
The Cardinals have a scary offense now
The move gives Arizona a frightening offense. Last year’s first-round pick Kyler Murray is coming off a promising rookie year, and the addition of Hopkins should help Murray immensely. Murray will also have both Christian Kirk and Larry Fitzgerald, giving the Cardinals a dangerous and deep receiving core.
When Murray needs a break, he can hand the ball off the Drake, who can hopefully build off the promise he showed last season. Drake has also been an effective receiver throughout his career, and should provide Murray with a nice safety valve option.
Combine all of that with Kliff Kingsbury running the show, and the Cardinals are going to be a popular sleeper pick in 2020.
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