Eagles Rumors: Kenyan Drake would be a great low-risk addition to Philly’s backfield
With the final cutdown day looming and the 2022 regular season right around the corner, it’s become apparent that the Eagles could use another capable body in their backfield.
Miles Sanders has missed several days of camp with a hamstring injury, something that’s nagged the former PSU back for his entire career. Kenneth Gainwell’s sophomore leap hasn’t been as great as some expected, at least during camp. And while we all love us some Boston Scott, he is what he is at this point and doesn’t present much upside.
There’s been plenty of speculation around a potential Kareem Hunt trade in recent weeks, and while he is the best available back at the moment, the Eagles would have to give up draft assets to acquire him. Giving up draft capital for a running back on an expiring contract isn’t exactly ideal. It doesn’t feel like a move Howie Roseman would make unless it was out of necessity.
Fortunately, there’s another back who was recently released who fits the same mold as Hunt. On Tuesday, the Raiders cut ties with Kenyan Drake after signing the veteran to a two-year, $11 million free agent contract just one year prior.
How Drake fits with the Eagles financially
Now that Drake is officially on the open market, the Eagles won’t be forced to take on any of his lingering contract from the Raiders; something the team may be forced to do if they trade for Hunt.
As it stands, the Eagles have a hair over $8 million in cap space entering the 2022 season, according to OverTheCap. At running back, the team has allocated approximately $4.3 million in cap space to the three backs who are guaranteed roster spots (Sanders, Scott, Gainwell).
If the Eagles were to pursue Drake, the contract would likely be a one-year deal, worth anywhere between $1-$2.5 million. Knowing Howie, he’ll probably make the deal team friendly and give himself a clear out if things don’t pan out.
Drake’s fit in Nick Sirianni’s offense
Despite the plethora of weapons the Eagles will have at their disposal this season, the rushing attack is still their bread and butter.
No team ran the ball more effectively in 2021 than Philly. Sirianni’s offense averaged 159.7 rushing yards per contest, 10 more yards than the next closest team. They also led the league in total rushing yards (2,715), rushing touchdowns (25), first downs by rushing (163), and expected points contributed by rushing (64.65).
Sirianni utilized a four-man rotation in his backfield for the majority of the season. Sanders, Scott, Gainwell, and Jordan Howard all had at least 68 carries on the year. Although Drake isn’t a one-for-one replacement of Howard’s skillset, he does add versatility to the Eagles backfield while still possessing some of that north-south running style that Howard brought to the field.
Per Pro Football Focus, Drake averaged 2.57 yards after contact per attempt and forced 10 missed tackles on the year. Drake also posted his best receiving season to date in 2021, according to PFF, earning himself a career-best 82.0 receiving grade, good for fourth-best in the NFL.
On the year, Drake totaled 291 receiving yards, which would have led the Eagles backfield in 2021. Since 2017, Drake has averaged 38 receptions and 299 receiving yards per season.
Heading into 2022, the hope was that Gainwell would take full control of the receiving role in the Eagles backfield. Sirianni loves to create mismatches, especially with his running backs. Gainwell’s mismatch potential could certainly still come to fruition this season, but it hasn’t taken shape during camp.
During joint practices with the Browns last week, Gainwell had a handful of mental errors and recorded five drops across four practices, leading Sirianni to lash out at the second-year back and hold him out of the final team period during Friday’s practice.
Gainwell managed to bounce back in the preseason game against Cleveland, toting the rock 11 times for 46 yards, including a two-yard touchdown plunge.
A breakout year from Gainwell is obviously the most ideal scenario for the Eagles, but it’s not a guarantee. At the very least, Drake gives the team insurance.
“I’m not really looking for any specific type of money, or opportunity specifically. I just want to be able to go out there and compete and help a team win games,” Drake said during a phone interview with The Associated Press on Monday.
Signing Drake would be a low-risk, high-reward proposition.
If he can provide the offense with versatility in the backfield on a consistent basis, he’ll be a welcomed addition. If Gainwell really steps up and proves himself as the capable dual-threat back Eagles fans are hoping he can be, then the team can move on from Drake with no sweat off their backs.
It’s a win-win situation worth looking into from the Eagles standpoint.
Mandatory Credit: Chris Unger | Getty Images