Derrick Henry Aiming Higher Than Ezekiel Elliott Deal

One of three key members of the Titans’ offense set for free agency, Derrick Henry is coming off an all-time postseason performance. And he’s looking to cash in from either the Titans or another team.

Henry made it clear he would prefer to stay in Tennessee but wants a top-market contract. During an appearance on the Rich Eisen Show, Henry said Ezekiel Elliott‘s number will be his floor (video link). Elliott signed a six-year, $90MM extension with the Cowboys last year. It remains the top running back contract.

The bruising back did not say he is committed to testing the market, however. Henry would be fine with signing a major extension with the Titans before free agency opens March 18.

I hope they prevent it from happening,” Henry said of testing the market. “I love the state of Tennessee. We’ll see what happens, though.”

The Titans want to keep their 26-year-old impact back and are willing to use their franchise tag to make that happen. But fellow UFA-to-be Ryan Tannehill is also a tag candidate. Right tackle Jack Conklin is set for free agency as well. Teams can use their franchise and transition tags this year, unless a new CBA is finalized by the time the tag window opens Feb. 25. The running back franchise and transition tags are expected to come in around $10.4MM and $8.6MM, respectively. The ability to use both in the final year of a CBA may be crucial to the Titans retaining their quarterback and running back. As of December, Tennessee had not begun Henry extension talks.

This is a big target for Henry, even after the season he compiled. While the former Heisman winner won the rushing title and spearheaded the Titans to a surprising AFC championship game run with monster performances in wins over the Patriots and Ravens, his contract-year showing dwarfs his previous three years of work. Although DeMarco Murray took much of the workload from Henry in 2016-17, the former second-round pick was ineffective for much of the 2018 season before finishing strong. He is now coming off a 1,540-yard season that included 446 playoff rushing yards — the most by a player whose team did not qualify for a Super Bowl.

However, Henry’s old-school style does not include much in the passing game. That’s been essentially a prerequisite for the backs who have signed lucrative deals over the past two years. And the early returns from the new running back pay rate have not been promising. Excepting Elliott, the eight-figure-per-year deals for Todd Gurley, David Johnson and Le’Veon Bell have not rewarded teams. It will be difficult for Henry to top Elliott’s $15MM-per-year pact, but Henry does bring immense value to the Titans’ offense.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

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16 comments on “Derrick Henry Aiming Higher Than Ezekiel Elliott Deal

  1. Vin Scully

    He is too old. He might have ine good season left before the wheels come off.

    • dynamite drop in monty

      I’ve had farts that offered more to the conversation than you. More pleasant, too.

      • Adrian Peterson and Frank Gore are still delivering solid results at 35. By having a couple of seasons with a lower workload, Derrick Henry gains two prime seasons to his career.

        Still more than three years guaranteed is risking a lot of future cap space. Too much guaranteed money might make running backs and defensive ends a bit lazy based on recent big signings and performance.

  2. imindless

    Just tag him no one is gonna sign tannehill to a huge deal after that game against kc. Henry is what makes offense go not tannehill, also better options on market than him.

    • Rondon

      What are you talking about? Tannehill was the highest rated QB in the league in the 2nd half and won Comeback player of the Year. They should absolutely sign him to a multi-year deal and tag Henry.

      • imindless

        Playing against colts, jaguars, texans twice per year….inflated stats we saw the real tannehill in playoffs 85 yards with an offense that ran primarily through henry. Article reference who they will tag i said henry that doesnt preclude them from signing both but the figure henry is asking for is absurd. Tannehill will be the easier sign

        • Rondon

          Every team plays their share of “those” teams. The Titan’s season completely turned around when Tannehill became the starter. I don’t know what inflated stats means. They passed less because the run game was devastating- Just like the 49ers. There’s no QB out there better for their system. They won’t sign Henry for Zeke money. It’ll either be a tag or nothing.

  3. goldenmisfit

    The real Tannehill? They ran the ball 90% of the time. Your comment makes no sense.

    • DarkSide830

      it isn’t too hard to hand off the ball, especially if the guy you’re giving it to is Henry

  4. crazylarry

    Larry Johnson II. Herm ran him into the ground and he NEVER was the same. I wouldn’t give Henry 1/3 of what he is asking for. He is overplaying his hand.

  5. Phattey

    Baffling to me that this was his first season as a true workhorse back dude rushed for 2000 yards and won a heisman at bama only to go on to back up Demarco Murray and Deion Sims like wtf he’s better than both of them but whatever

  6. crosseyedlemon

    The Titans probably can’t extend their fan base or social media footprint (they rank around 30th in the NFL in Twitter & Facebook followers) without locking up Henry for the long term.

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