Titans Sign Derrick Henry To Extension

With less than an hour remaining until this year’s deadline for franchise-tagged players to sign extensions, the Titans appear to have a deal done. They have agreed to terms with Derrick Henry on a long-term contract, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets. The Titans announced the extension.

This has been a historically quiet tag deadline, due largely to the financial uncertainty the pandemic has caused. And as recently as Tuesday, the Titans and Henry were believed to be too far apart. But they stayed in contact and have finalized an agreement. It’s a four-year pact, Jay Glazer of Fox Sports reports (on Twitter).

The Titans and Henry worked on a deal for months. The final result: a four-year, $50MM agreement, with Adam Schefter of ESPN.com tweeting $25.5MM will be guaranteed. This $12.5MM-per-year pact comes in fifth among active backs, but with two years being essentially guaranteed, it will give the reigning rushing champion security at a position that largely lacks it.

Per Field Yates of ESPN.com (via Twitter), the deal includes a $12MM signing bonus and a first-year cash flow of $15MM, a nice increase from the $10.278MM Henry was due to earn on the franchise tender. It also creates over $4MM of cap space this year for the Titans, giving them more than $24MM to spend. Tennessee could opt to roll most of that money over into 2021 to guard against a salary cap drop, but the club clearly has the ability to add more talent (see: Jadeveon Clowney).

The running back market spike from 2018-19, for the most part, did not reward teams who authorized the big-money deals. And the loaded 2017 running back draft class may be set to make the 2021 free agency class a buyer’s market, especially considering the cap implications COVID-19 could cause. But the Titans moved forward anyway and will now have Henry and Ryan Tannehill signed to long-term deals, rewarding the duo most responsible for the team’s first AFC championship game berth in 17 years.

Henry is coming off one of the better contract years in recent memory, following up his rushing title with dominant performances in Titans upset wins over the Patriots and Ravens in the playoffs. The former Heisman winner and second-round pick has been one of the league’s best backs over the past season and change, beginning his breakout late in the 2018 campaign.

Adding to the intrigue behind this deal: Henry’s throwback skill set offers little in the passing game, separating him from the recent group of backs — Todd Gurley, David Johnson, Le’Veon Bell and Ezekiel Elliott — to sign market-reshaping contracts. The previous recipient of a monster running back extension — Carolina’s Christian McCaffrey — is perhaps the game’s premier dual-threat option. Tennessee, however, has built a run-oriented offense around its top back. And Henry, despite his bulldozing style, has only totaled 804 carries. That ranks eighth among backs since 2016.

Despite 15 players being tagged this offseason, Henry is only the second to sign an extension. He follows the Chiefs’ Chris Jones. The other teams who have used the tag are a half-hour away from carrying the tag salaries on their respective payrolls this season. The NFL moved the start of the league year back multiple times because of the CBA ratification process, but the league keeping the tag deadline in place has likely caused most teams to stand down amid the uncertainty the coronavirus has injected into the NFL’s future.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

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14 comments on “Titans Sign Derrick Henry To Extension

  1. jb19

    Henry deserves a lot of credit for last year’s success. Glad he got a deal done… 3 years ago. No one would have believed the Titans handing out huge contracts to Tannehill and Derrick Henry.

    • harden-westbrook-mvps

      Only the first two years are guaranteed, he’s easily worth what he will be getting during the 2020 and 2021 seasons. Last year was the only time in his NFL career he carried the ball more than 215 times in a season. He has barely averaged 200 carries throughout his career, although he will be getting closer to 300 over the next few seasons. Plenty of tread left on those tires of his.

  2. bradthebluefish

    Good for him. He is the offense. Not Tannehill who surprisingly got too much IMO.

    • wagner13

      I’m actually surprised. The annual value of the contract is pretty reasonable considering his talent. He probably deserves about 75% of what McCaffrey makes and still has at least a couple of elite seasons left in the tank.

      The Tannehill contract seemed preemptive to me. He was very efficient last season, but it’s possible he played above his talent level as well. I would’ve waited to see if he could replicate his production before dumping a money bag on his doorstep.

      The Tannehill extension also forced the team to part ways with Jack Conklin, and I believe his loss will be felt strongly in the run game. We’ll see how this season plays out, but I’m not too confident in Tennessee. The team didn’t really add anyone significant. Sure, they drafted Wilson and Fulton, but they’re replacing Conklin and Logan Ryan respectively. Furthermore, they parted ways with stalwart Jurrell Casey. I just can’t see this team contending for a Superbowl

      • rondon

        You may or may not be right. Teams will key on Henry, no doubt, so it’ll depend on whether or not they can establish a decent passing game. But Tannehill is fully capable of operating the offense effectively and you can’t deny how he and Henry absolutely were the keys to their turnaround last year. They both deserved to get paid.

    • harden-westbrook-mvps

      What wear? Henry has averaged just 201 carries per season during his NFL career, he wasn’t even a starter until 2018. He has at least 4 more great years left in him, this was an amazing deal the Titans worked out.

      More like lots of tread left on those tires at 26 years of age….

  3. JVizzle

    I like DH but man these big workload backs have a way of puttering out quickly. I wouldn’t be surprised with just at 1k rushing yards on a lower apc this year compared to last.

  4. Ak185

    Henry deserves this. I’m actually most surprised at his healthiness given his size and height, not his wear and tear. Big backs (6 foot plus and/or 230 plus) typically burn out after a couple of quality seasons. Henry, however, runs with athleticism unexpected for a back his size that gives me some confidence. He actually hasn’t handled the ball much for a workhorse, and has benefitted from some good blocking in the pros and in college, which has reduced his injury occurrence significantly. Henry still does his own work, mind you, I am not crediting his numbers solely to his blockers. Backs who spend a lot of time getting hit in the backfield, though, don’t last long.

    There are only two things that I would worry about. Henry is definitely a better back than Dion Lewis, but having Lewis around to handle a number of carries during the season early in Henry’s career reduced the strain on Henry and allowed him to remain full strength late in the year. Before that, Demarco Murray initially handled carries that Henry would have had to otherwise. Last year Henry handled the ball more. And by signing Tannehill (and committing to their offensive system from 2019), the Titans have committed to running the offense through Derrick Henry, even through the air. I think that in order to keep Henry effective long term they need a second back to split carries. Henry is a big back, which adds to his effectiveness, and has been pretty consistent and reliable to this point in his career. That said, the Titans should plan this going forward to reduce his risk of injury sand maintain Henry’s effectiveness.

  5. Tim704

    Darrynton Evans is set to share carries, and I think they hold on to Senorise Perry also. Dennis Kelly is a good lineman and Wilson looks to be a beast. Hopefully Beasley has a few good seasons left in the tank and we sign a defensive lineman. #TITANUP

  6. crosseyedlemon

    In any organization or business it’s just common sense to reward the people who are making your success possible. An 6 year old child can understand that concept.

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