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The Money Line On A Kenyan Drake Return To Cardinals

Keim: Johnson can do "good things for us" at running back

Running back Kenyan Drake is scheduled to become a free agent in March.
Running back Kenyan Drake is scheduled to become a free agent in March.

INDIANAPOLIS – Without much else to go on, it's easy for the social media posts of Kenyan Drake to cause a stir.

First was the switching of his Twitter avatar to a photo of him in a Cardinals uniform. Then came a tweet saying only, "Waiting for some new money man." Surely it was a plea as the running back's free agency approaches next month.

No, Drake explained in a follow-up tweet, it was instead literally waiting for the next song from the rapper Money Man, which came out soon after. It doesn't bring any more clarity to Drake's contract situation. The Cardinals want him back. But it'll be about the money, man.

"We'd love to have him back, he's a perfect fit for our offense," Cardinals coach Kliff Kingsbury said Tuesday at the NFL Scouting combine. "I think he understands that. But I understand the business side of things as well."

After injuries knocked both David Johnson and Chase Edmonds from the lineup last season, the Cardinals dealt a conditional draft pick for Drake, who proceeded to gain 643 yards rushing in eight games, averaging 5.2 yards a carry, making another 28 catches for 171 yards and scoring eight touchdowns.

The Cardinals knew it was a risk, taking on a player headed for free agency. Drake knew his situation too, frustrated after limited use in Miami with the Dolphins.

"He took full advantage of his opportunity," GM Steve Keim said.

Where that leaves the Cardinals – and Drake – is somewhat cloudy.

"He's certainly a guy we would like to have back but again not sure what the market is going to do," Keim said.

The market could include players like Tennessee's Derrick Henry and the Chargers' Melvin Gordon. It also might include recent running back outcomes – the struggles of Todd Gurley and David Johnson after big contract extensions, the good performances of a guy like Raheem Mostert of the 49ers, who had bounced around to seven teams – that cloud the issue.

Kingsbury praised the work of Edmonds and Johnson before each suffered their injuries – forcing the Drake acquisition – and said the Cardinals would be OK even if Drake did not return.

"Chase and David are both tremendous backs with unique skillsets which we will definitely be able to maximize," Kingsbury said.

Johnson is a "guy we still value," Keim said, and reiterated Drake was playing too well once he arrived to take him off the field. Given Johnson's contract situation, having him remain in Arizona might be the best option even if Drake stays.

"He's a guy who's shown he can do it," Keim said. "I think because of the success that Kenyan had, because of the success Chase had, I think that's something that will be a chip on his shoulder. He's going to want to come back and play well and again because of his skillset, he's such a big talented athlete, we certainly think he can jump back in and do some good things for us."

The Cardinals hope that Drake can also do more good things for them – assuming he can become his own money man.

"He seized the opportunity to have the majority of the carries and be the guy, and he took it and ran with it," Kingsbury said. "We'd love to have him back. We'll see where that goes."

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