ZMI ALPHA:Drake’s big deal bucks conventional wisdom

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ZMI ALPHA:Drake’s big deal bucks conventional wisdom

Wouldn’t you know it? The team more in need of defensive help than any other brought four offensive players aboard Thursday on the second day of the NFL’s new league year.

One of them, running back Kenyan Drake, brought raised eyebrows throughout the league and social media given the amount of money coach Jon Gruden authorized for a running back that gained 955 yards and on 239 carries and 10 touchdowns last season for the Arizona Cardinals.

The Raiders also added a potential starting center in Nick Martin, who will compete with Andre James for job vacated by the trade of Rodney Hudson to Arizona. Two of their own free agents also agreed to terms to return — tight end Derek Carrier and veteran running back Theo Riddick.

Not a defensive player in the bunch.

Heading in to Thursday, the Raiders had agreed with edge rusher Yannick Ngakoue and a pair of interior defensive linemen in Solomon Thomas and Quinton Jefferson. They also brought back defensive tackle Johnathan Hankins.

Jefferson is still the only transaction the Raiders have officially announced, although the others have all been confirmed by a team source.

Most people agree Drake is a solid NFL back. The issue is that Gruden spent so much to get him when he’s already got a quality starter in Josh Jacobs. Drake reeled in a two-year deal with a reported guarantee of $11 million and a maximum value of $14.5 million. That’s more than Jacobs makes.

The trend in the NFL for the last several years is to devalue running backs. There’s Derrick Henry, and then there’s everybody else. And even Henry is paid slightly less on a per-year basis than Ngakoue.

And if starting running backs aren’t getting paid, then writing big checks for part-timers is blasphemy. You look for someone like Devontae Booker, who was the surprise second back to Jacobs after signing a veteran’s minimum deal and gained 423 yards although he (and the Raiders running game in general) faded down the stretch.

Gruden, who favors a power running game and notes often that he’s the son of a running backs coach, envisions more of a two-headed beast. He did it back in the day in Philadelphia with Ricky Watters and Charlie Garner, then in Oakland with Tyrone Wheatley and Napoleon Kaufman, and then Wheatley and Garner.

Which has many wondering if Gruden is stuck in the past in terms of how to build a roster in terms of the salary cap and cash in the NFL world of cookie-cutter salary structures. A dinosaur stuck in the stone age who just doesn’t get it.

What if the Raiders can’t sign a safety, a veteran corner or a right tackle because they locked up a luxury item in Drake?

Note: According to figures reported Friday, Drake’s contract carries only a $3 million cap hit the first year, so it’s not that much of an issue in terms of bringing in new players this season.

Amateur general managers and salary cap bean-counters are aghast, although they shouldn’t be completely surprised after tight end Jason Witten and quarterback Marcus Mariota got above-the-market deals a year ago as non-starters on offense.

If you haven’t noticed, Gruden does as Gruden wants. He wanted Drake. It’s not any more complicated than that.


G Denzelle Good, two years, $8.36 million, $3.19 guaranteed (NFL Media)

LB Nicholas Morrow, one year, $5 million, $4.5 million guaranteed (NFL Media)

DT Johnathan Hankins, one year, $3.5 million, $1.75 million guaranteed (Spotrac)

WR Zay Jones, one year, terms unavailable

G Richie Incognito, one year, $2.62 million, $1.1 million guaranteed (NFL Media)

DE David Irving, one-year, $1.1 million (overthecap)

QB Nathan Peterman, one year, $1 million (overthecap)

TE Derek Carrier, one year, terms unavailable (NFL Media)

RB Theo Riddick, one year, salary unavailable, $50,000 guaranteed (ESPN)

CB Nevin Lawson, terms undisclosed (Fresno Bee)


RB Kenyan Drake (Cardinals), two years, up to $14.5 million (ESPN)

C Nick Martin (Texans), terms unavailable

DE Yannick Ngakoue (Ravens), two years, $26 million, $21 million guaranteed

WR John Brown (Bills), one year, $3.5 million, worth up to $5.5 million (NFL Media)

DL Solomon Thomas (49ers), one year, worth up to $5 million (NFL Media)

DT Quinton Jefferson, one year (Bills), $3.25 million, up to $4 million with incentives (CaplanNFL)


WR Nelson Agholor (Patriots), two years, $22 million, $26 milion guaranteed (spotrac)

RB Devontae Booker (Giants) two years, $6 million, $2 million guaranteed (Houston Chronicle)

DE Takk McKinley (Browns), one year, $4.25 million, $3.5 million guaranteed (Spotrac)

WR Terrell Williams (Lions) one year, $4 million guaranteed (Spotrac)

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