Las Vegas Raiders come under fire for Kenyan Drake signing in NFL free agency
The Las Vegas Raiders' decision to sign Kenyan Drake in NFL free agency — and let some key offensive line pieces go in the process — is among the "worst" and most "head-scratching" moves in NFL free agency, according to some writers, who have questioned the move.
Drake, who played with the Arizona Cardinals last season, received a 2-year deal with the Raiders that has $11 million in guarantees.
The Raiders recently traded center Rodney Hudson to the Cardinals and guard Gabe Jackson to the Seattle Seahawks, creating questions about the blocking for Drake.
Las Vegas also already has Josh Jacobs as its primary back, making some ponder why the team's front office needed to sign Drake.
Pro Football Focus called the signing the biggest offseason mistake for the Raiders this offseason.
Anthony Treash wrote: “Las Vegas was reportedly attracted to Drake’s ability to produce in the passing game. While he certainly has gotten the opportunity to make plays as a pass-catcher throughout his five-year career with the Dolphins and Cardinals, his grades don’t match the hype. Drake ranks 51st among 57 qualifying running backs in receiving grade since he entered the NFL in 2016, a major factor in him owning a single-season career-best WAR ranking of 24th (2018) at the position.”
ESPN's Matt Bowen wrote that it was the "most head-scratching move" of free agency.
He wrote: "The Raiders signing running back Kenyan Drake. Drake can fit in multiple NFL offenses given his one-cut running style and short-area speed. But I question why Las Vegas would give Drake a two-year deal -- with $11 million in guarantees -- to take touches away from Josh Jacobs. Remember, Jacobs is a volume runner in Jon Gruden's power scheme."
Other ESPN writers also questioned the Raiders' thinking in the deal.
"The Raiders dismantling their offensive line and not using the money aggressively to address their defense.," Kevin Seifert wrote as being his "head-scratcher" of free agency. "They did, however, guarantee Drake $6.75 million despite having Jacobs signed for at least two more years under the terms of his rookie contract."
Seth Walder agreed, writing: "The Raiders signing Drake. If Las Vegas wanted to reallocate resources from its offensive line, backup running back was not the spot to do it. I'm having a hard time imagining the meeting where the decision-makers came to the conclusion it was."
Bowen and colleague Mike Clay both wrote that Las Vegas had the most confusing approach to free agency so far.
Wrote Bowen: "Adding defensive end Yannick Ngakoue should be looked at as a "plus" move for Vegas. They need a difference-maker up front, and Ngakoue has disruptive traits as a pass-rusher. But I'm still trying to figure out why the Raiders dismantled the offensive line. With Trent Brown being traded to New England, and the Raiders looking to move on from both Gabe Jackson and Rodney Hudson, Vegas now has vital spots to fill for an offense that wants to run downhill power under coach Jon Gruden."
Wrote Clay: "One of the strengths of the 2020 Raiders -- a near-playoff team -- was their offensive line. They've almost completely torn it down in recent days, including the bizarre trade of Hudson. They've also yet to replace any of Hudson, Jackson, Richie Incognito or Brown. Ngakoue and wide receiver John Brown were solid adds, but holes remain throughout this roster, including defensive tackle, corner, safety, offensive skill position depth and, of course, along the offensive line. GM Mike Mayock has a ton of work to do."
SB Nation's Bill Williamson took a look at the pros and cons of the Drake signing for the Raiders and there were a lot more cons.
He wrote that Jacobs, the starter, likely won't be happy with the deal and that it is a huge financial commitment for Las Vegas. He also wondered who would be blocking for the team's running backs.
Of Jacobs' happiness, he wrote: "He will likely get less carries and his backup is getting paid more than him. That’s an odd way to treat a Pro Bowl running back. The Raiders are going to have to decide to give Jacobs the fifth-year option next year. This could get interesting. Remember, the team used a first-round pick on Jacobs less than two years ago and are already paying another tailback."
Vikings Territory had Drake's signing with Las Vegas among the most surprising in NFL free agency.
Dustin Baker wrote: "In the grand landscape of the NFL, this one doesn’t “matter” too much. A journeyman tailback finds another home – so what? It’s the logistics of the move. Drake’s career wavelength took an odd turn last week. He will presumably return to an RB2 role after acting as an RB1 with the Arizona Cardinals. Weird. Most running backs in their prime – if they have the talent (Drake does) – prefer a landing spot where touches are plentiful. Unless Josh Jacobs is unceremoniously jettisoned (unlikely), Drake falls back into a secondary role. This also has a bizarre impact on fantasy football players – especially Dynasty participants."
NFL free agency grades
Pro Football Network slammed the Raiders' offseason, giving it a D+ grade.
Mike Tanier wrote: "Mike Mayock and Jon Gruden are like an old Vaudeville juggling act that can only handle one ball each. They managed to upgrade a defensive line that has been a weakness for years, but only by significantly downgrading an offensive line that has been a strength for years. As a bonus, they overpaid for a committee back in Drake. Moves like these are how they build a team that is almost good enough for a Wild Card berth every single year."
The Washington Post gave the team a C-.
John Clayton wrote: "The Raiders may have made the most puzzling free agency decisions by trading three starting offensive linemen — Trent Brown, Rodney Hudson and Gabe Jackson — and then giving $5.5 million a year to Kenyan Drake even though they have one of the NFL’s best young running backs in Josh Jacobs. The pass rush got better with defensive end Yannick Ngakoue, however."
Draft Kings also gave the team a C-.
Chet Gresham wrote: "The addition of Yannick Ngakoue is probably the best move they made, as they need someone who can get to the quarterback after ranking 27th in pass rush per Pro Football Focus. With Nelson Agholor leaving in free agency, the team brought in John Brown, who makes for a good replacement. But, adding Kenyan Drake to the mix with so many other needs on the team seems an odd choice. Drake is a good back, but he isn’t anything special. Maybe Josh Jacobs’ is already breaking down from injuries, but adding competition through the draft seems like the more prudent move."
Bleacher Report gave Las Vegas a D+.
Alex Kay wrote: "Las Vegas now has to figure out how to patch up the offensive line after it traded a pair of starters in center Rodney Hudson and tackle Trent Brown. The squad did ink a replacement for Hudson in Nick Martin but still has to find a way to keep quarterback Derek Carr protected and open up rushing lanes after spending $11 million to sign running back Kenyan Drake for two years. The Raiders seemed to have ended up exactly where they started the offseason: with a roster full of holes—just different ones than before. Las Vegas isn't ready to be a contender yet and—barring a series of home runs in the draft—will likely fall short again."