The Detroit Lions could use some insurance at the running back position. But are they willing to pay a free agent like Kenyan Drake to secure it?
The Detroit Lions aren’t known for their running game prowess. In fact, there’s a sense the Motor City hasn’t had a true motor since the days of Hall of Fame running back Barry Sanders. Yet, the Lions’ best hope for reviving their rushing attack seemed to be Kerryon Johnson. But will Detroit buy themselves some insurance for him this offseason?
Selected in the second round of the 2018 NFL Draft out of Auburn, Johnson posted a sensational rookie campaign that had Motown buzzing. The former Tiger rushed for 641 yards and three touchdowns while averaging an incredible 5.4 yards per carry. Unfortunately, a knee injury limited Johnson to only 10 games of what appeared to be the first 1,000-yard rushing season since Reggie Bush did it back in 2013.
Although the injury seemed to be an inconvenient bump in the road, it got elevated to red flag status when Johnson suffered yet another knee injury during his second season. Combined with a bit of a sophomore slump, where the 22-year old would record 403 yards and three scores while averaging just 3.6 yards per carry, Johnson played in just eight games in 2019.
On the positive side, Johnson did return from the injury to play in the Lions’ final two games of the lost season. He averaged 4.5 yards per carry during those contests, registering a total of 95 yards and a touchdown on the ground. Johnson’s eight-game absence also allowed Detroit to find bruiser back Bo Scarbrough.
Scarbrough was an impressive fill-in for Johnson, posting 377 rushing yards and a score while averaging a solid 4.2 yards per carry in his first five NFL starts. The hope is both Bo and Kerryon will be able to carry the load for Detroit in 2020. The two combined to record 171 rushing yards and a touchdown while averaging 4.5 yards per carry as a duo in the Lions’ last two contests.
Yet, based on Johnson’s injury history and Scarbrough’s inexperience, it might be wise for Detroit to find themselves some insurance in free agency when the market opens later this month. One name that has been mentioned as a potential target is Arizona Cardinals running back Kenyan Drake.
A third-round selection out of Alabama in 2016, Drake spent his first four seasons with the Miami Dolphins. An expiring rookie contract and injury-plagued past led the 26-year old to be traded to the Cardinals for a conditional sixth-round selection in late October. But before the move was made, there was a report from the Miami Herald that the Lions were interested in acquiring Drake as well.
Drake thrived with his new team in Arizona, posting 643 rushing yards, eight touchdowns, and averaged 5.2 yards per carry as an eight-game starter. The versatile back also had 28 receptions for 171 yards.
Scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent later this month, there was some talk of the Cardinals re-signing Drake. Even possibly using their franchise tag to retain him. But Drake is rumored to desire a contract worth $8-$10 million annually, which might force Arizona to allow him to hit the open market. But would the Lions really be interested at that price point?
Investing that heavily in a player with injury concerns as insurance for a player with injury concerns seems a bit comical. But the Detroit Lions seemed to have some interest in Kenyan Drake recently. And it would not be the first time the Lions have had to pay a premium for a free agent to come to Detroit. Especially considering their recent 3-12-1 record and perilous coaching situation.