Armando Salguero

The odd marriage between Kenyan Drake and the Miami Dolphins

Kenyan Drake denies he’s asked to be traded — because he hasn’t. And the Miami Dolphins insist they are not actively shopping Drake to other teams — because they’re not.

That was confirmed by multiple sources outside and inside the organization on Thursday.

And, yet, it would not be surprising if Drake is moved before the October 29 trade deadline. It’s strange. Both sides are trying to conduct themselves in a manner that suggests no trade is likely but both are more than willing to have exactly that occur..

Both Drake and the Dolphins want to be professional about this.

Drake doesn’t want to come off as a malcontent who no longer wants to be with the team that drafted him in the third round of the 2016 draft. And the Dolphins don’t want to be seen as dumping yet another talented young veteran, following earlier trades of Laremy Tunsil and Minkah Fitzpatrick.

The Dolphins also don’t want other teams to think they’re desperate to trade Drake so as to not lower his already unremarkable trade prospects. So there’s that.

Despite the civil approach by both sides, they’re both doing what is in their own best interest. Drake isn’t asking for a trade but would be happy to be traded. The Dolphins aren’t shopping Drake but are engaging teams calling them about him.

Drake’s camp has leaked information that the Dolphins and other teams are talking about trading the running back. Dolphins sources admit if they get the right offer for Drake, they will send him along.

So a delicate dance is underway.

What does all this mean?

Whether Drake is traded this year or not, he is unlikely to return to the team next year. He’s a free agent who he wants to play for a team that will value his talents, including his 4.3 speed, to a greater degree. He wants to maximize his payday, which is understandable.

The Dolphins, meanwhile, haven’t highly valued Drake under two different coaching staffs. Last season, as the offense struggled to move the football, Drake was limited on run downs because he too often improvised and that led to losses on carries — something the Dolphins could not overcome.

This season, the Brian Flores coaching staff moved second-year running back Kalen Ballage ahead of Drake as the starter in training camp. When that proved unsuccessful after three or four regular-season games, the team moved Ballage out of the starting lineup.

And last Sunday Miami started former third-string running back Mark Walton.

Ahead of Drake.

Coaches also haven’t loved some of Drake’s practice habits, according to a source.

When the team and Drake’s agents had brief contract extension talks in early September, they were not on the same page. Indeed, a source said the Dolphins made an offer and got no response. Drake’s value for himself is apparently much higher than what the team is willing to invest.

So this is like a marriage where the spouses live in the same house because they feel they must. But neither is truly in love.

The relationship is, well, just bearable.

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And now let us address the concern staring everyone in the face: Minkah Fitzpatrick grew disenchanted with the Dolphins in August and asked to be traded. Drake is merely tolerating his situation with the Dolphins but would prefer to be elsewhere.

Both went to the University of Alabama.

And the Dolphins are locked in on evaluating current Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa as a possible 2020 draft pick. The question becomes do the former Alabama players tell the current Alabama quarterback that Miami is not a great organization to join?

I’m told the Dolphins have no worries about this. (Might be because they haven’t really thought about it, but that’s another matter).

I’m told that Dolphins general manager Chris Grier has a great relationship with Alabama coach Nick Saban and would lean on that relationship to 1. Get an honest assessment on Tagovailoa from the coach and 2. Get the coach to give Tagovailoa his endorsement of Grier and the Dolphins.

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Armando Salguero has covered the Miami Dolphins and the NFL since 1990, so longer than many players on the current roster have been alive and since many coaches on the team were in middle school. He was a 2016 APSE Top 3 columnist nationwide. He is one of 48 Pro Football Hall of Fame voters. He is an Associated Press All-Pro and awards voter. He’s covered Dolphins games in London, Berlin, Mexico City and Tokyo. He has covered 25 Super Bowls, the NBA Finals, and the Olympics.
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