Derrick Henry

Titans, Derrick Henry Discussing Deal

The Titans have more than a month to reach an extension agreement with Derrick Henry, but they are not putting off talks until the deadline nears — a common franchise tag practice.

GM Jon Robinson confirmed he has engaged in talks with Henry’s agent over the past two weeks, according to TitanInsider.com’s Terry McCormick (on Twitter). The most recent call occurred this week.

This represents a positive development for these parties. The Titans slapped the tag on Henry in March, and the reigning rushing champion signed it in April. Should Henry and the Titans not agree to the long-term deal both sides prefer by July 15, the fifth-year back is locked into a $10.278MM salary.

Tennessee drafted Appalachian State’s Darrynton Evans in the third round but remains intent on signing Henry to an extension. Evans may cut into Henry’s workload more than Dion Lewis did last year, but that could be a bonus for the bruising back’s longevity. This will be Henry’s age-26 season.

Henry is coming off one of the better contract years in recent memory, tacking two dominant playoff performances — in road wins over the Patriots and Ravens — onto his rushing championship. The former 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.

Henry also profiles as one of numerous extension-eligible running backs around the league, joining the stacked class of 2017 along with Cardinals transition-tagged back Kenyan Drake and 2018 UDFA Phillip Lindsay among key backs now up for new deals. Henry’s will be a key piece on an uncertain market.

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Titans Notes: Henry, Davis, QB

While speculation swirls about the Titans and a potential Jadeveon Clowney signing, here’s the latest on the players who are actually on Tennessee’s roster:

  • Last year, Derrick Henry led the league in both carries (303) and rushing yards (1,540). This year, he’ll likely be looking at a reduced workload. Tennessee’s offense will benefit “if more guys are touching the ball,” Titans offensive coordinator Arthur Smith says (Twitter link via Michael Giardi of NFL.com). If a significant number of those touches figure to go to third-round rookie Darrynton Evans, Henry’s future earnings could be impacted. Unless the Titans and Derrick Henry come to terms on an extension between now and the July 15 deadline, the running back will be on course for free agency in 2021. It’s worth mentioning that a lighter workload may actually benefit Henry as teams tend to fret about RB odometers.
  • Corey Davis‘ future with the Titans is also in limbo, but Smith tells the team website that he likes what he’s seen out of the wide receiver thus far. “There were some huge explosive plays (last year) that Corey was the unsung hero to,” Smith said. “He’s a big part of this offense and I think he’ll take another step. I feel very confident in Corey, A.J. and Adam (Humphries) and that group.” The Titans, as expected, turned down Davis’ fifth-year option in May. Through three pro seasons, Davis has just six touchdowns to his credit.
  • There’s been talk of the Titans adding a veteran backup quarterback, but Smith suggested that the QB2 job will go to either Logan Woodside or Cole McDonald, depending on how the camp competition unfolds.

Derrick Henry Signs Franchise Tender

Titans running back Derrick Henry has signed his franchise tender, as Dianna Russini of ESPN.com reports (via Twitter). If he plays out the 2020 season under the tender, he would earn $10.2MM while counting for an equivalent charge against Tennessee’s salary cap.

However, we heard yesterday that the Titans want to complete a long-term extension with the 2019 rushing champion in advance of the July 15 deadline, and Adam Schefter of ESPN.com confirms that is still the case (Twitter link). Henry, understandably, is just as committed to getting a deal done as Tennessee is.

Of course, running back negotiations have been rife with complications in recent years, and the performances that players like Todd Gurley, David Johnson, and Le’Veon Bell turned in after signing their own big-money deals could make a team like the Titans hesitant to commit to a lucrative multi-year pact for an RB. On the other hand, Gurley and Johnson have dealt with serious injury issues, and Bell saw a ton of touches with Pittsburgh before holding out an entire season. Ezekiel Elliott, despite having a lot of miles on his odometer, performed at a Pro Bowl level in 2019 after signing his new contract, which currently leads all RB deals with a $15MM AAV.

Henry, on the other hand, was used relatively sparingly in his first three years in the league before being unleashed on opposing teams in 2019. The Titans rode the bruising Alabama product to a berth in the AFC Championship Game last season, and if the club makes another deep postseason run in 2020, Henry will almost certainly be a big reason why. He piled up 1,540 rushing yards and 16 TDs on the ground in 2019, to go along with another 206 yards and two TDs through the air. Though the Chiefs managed to contain him for the most part in the AFCCG, he made a mockery of the Patriots’ and Ravens’ highly-touted defenses in the prior two playoff contests.

He will likely top Elliott’s $15MM annual payout and Elliott’s $28MM in full guarantees. But luckily for Tennessee, Henry cannot now stage a training camp holdout.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Titans Eyeing Derrick Henry Extension

The Titans letting Derrick Henry play on the franchise tag and giving him upwards of 300 touches before reassessing his value down the line would an interesting approach. Three teams reached tag-and-trade agreements last year. But the Titans want to sign the reigning rushing champion to an extension.

Jon Robinson met with Henry before the Titans used their franchise tag on him and has spoken with the four-year veteran since applying the tender, the Tennessee GM said Wednesday. Henry said, per Robinson, he wants to stay in Tennessee long-term.

While Robinson added that he wants to revisit talks before training camp, he has no choice. The Titans have until July 15 to reach an extension agreement with Henry. The 26-year-old back is currently attached to a $10.3MM franchise tender, though he has yet to sign it. If no deal is reached by then, Henry will count $10.3MM on the Titans’ 2020 payroll.

These will be interesting negotiations, given what has happened to the top tier of the running back market since Todd Gurley raised the salary bar. Gurley and David Johnson are on different teams, and Le’Veon Bell is coming off a disappointing Jets debut season. Ezekiel Elliott still leads the running back pack, at $15MM AAV, and made the Pro Bowl last season. But the Cowboys’ deal is the outlier presently.

Despite Elliott and Henry coming into the league in the 2016 draft, the former has a whopping 1,358 career touches. Henry, who split time with DeMarco Murray during his first two seasons, has accumulated only 861. Henry’s workload figures to factor into his negotiations with the Titans, who reached a long-term agreement with Ryan Tannehill and kept their bruising back off the market via the tag. As does his place on a run-heavy Titans team. A tag-and-trade scenario might not benefit the Titans, with Henry likely being more valuable in their offense than he would be elsewhere. Counting Henry’s tag price, the Titans hold just more than $23MM in cap space.

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Titans To Tag RB Derrick Henry

Shortly after the Ryan Tannehill extension news surfaced, the Titans will move to the next phase in their offseason plan. The team will use its franchise tag on Derrick Henry, Adam Schefter of ESPN.com tweets. Twelve players have now been tagged — most since 21 were in 2012.

The Titans will now have their centerpiece players locked up for 2020. Tannehill and Henry spearheaded the franchise’s first trip to the AFC championship game in 17 years, and the latter authored a historic playoff run. The move to tag Henry will cost $10.3MM.

While this decision will likely send Jack Conklin into free agency, the Titans have gone from potentially losing both Conklin and Henry to keeping a core player — at least for the 2020 season. Henry turned 26 midway through his playoff rampage and would have been an interesting free agent, factoring in his bruising dominance with a lack of impact in the passing game.

Henry led the NFL with 1,540 rushing yards and totaled 18 touchdowns last season. Splitting time with DeMarco Murray during his first two seasons, Henry started slowly in 2018 before finishing strong and closing a 1,000-yard season. He turned in one of the most dominant stretches by a running back in years during the 2019 stretch run to help the Titans go from being shut out in Denver to notching upset playoff wins in New England and Baltimore.

This tag also places Henry in rare territory. In the past eight tag periods, Henry and Le’Veon Bell are the only running backs to receive the tag. The latter played on the tag in 2017 but skipped the 2018 season in protest of it, forfeiting $14.5MM. Henry has not said how he will proceed on the tag, but he and the Titans have until July 15 to agree on an extension. Considering how most of the high-end running back contracts have played out in recent years — including Bell’s Jets pact — Henry’s negotiations will be interesting.

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Extra Points: CBA, RB Market, Walton, Smith

We got a new update on many of the details surrounding the new collective bargaining agreement, and now we have an update on the timeline. Attorneys from the league office will meet with NFLPA attorneys early next week in DC, according to Dan Graziano of ESPN.com (Twitter link).Those sides expect to have a final draft ready by late next week, and it will be sent out from there. Graziano reports that the NFLPA is still working out how the voting will take place from the full membership, and that the union is estimating 2-2.5 weeks until the voting process is complete. As such, it sounds like it’s going to be a little while before we know an answer one way or the other, and hopes that it would get done by next week were unrealistic. We’ll continue to keep you posted.

Here’s more from around the league as the combine continues:

  • Several teams have signed running backs to massive contracts in recent years, and then nearly immediately regretted it. Most notably, David Johnson and Todd Gurley received huge extensions from the Cardinals and Rams respectively before regressing sharply. Other teams appear to be taking note of that trend, and it looks like they’ll be acting accordingly. “The running backs slated to be free agents in a few weeks will not be getting paid huge contracts,” sources told Tony Pauline of ProFootballNetwork.com. Accordingly, Pauline writes that many around the league now expect it to be easier for the Titans to re-sign impending free agent Derrick Henry, since there won’t be as much competition for his services as some might have thought. Le’Veon Bell is another runner who recently signed a big deal before failing to live up to expectations, and it will be very interesting to see what the market looks like when free agency opens in a few weeks.
  • Mark Walton seemingly can’t stay out of trouble. The embattled running back was arrested following a verbal incident with the mother of his child, according to 7 News Miami. There was no physical contact this time, but Walton violated the terms of a restraining order against him. He was released by the Dolphins in November after a domestic violence arrest. The former Miami star had started to break out with the Dolphins, becoming their starting running back before the ugly arrest. He was originally drafted by the Bengals but was cut by Cincy after three offseason arrests for more minor offenses. He’s likely facing a suspension, and it’s hard to see him playing in the league any time soon.
  • Former Browns defensive lineman Chris Smith is looking to make a comeback. Smith’s girlfriend was tragically killed in a car accident last year, leaving Smith as a single father of their child. Not long after the incident the Browns released him, and he spent the rest of the year out of football. Smith is now “feeling better and ready to resume his career” and will look to sign with a team, a source told Adam Schefter of ESPN.com (Twitter link). Smith entered the league in 2014 and has spent time with the Jaguars and Bengals as well. He appeared in all 16 games for the Browns in 2018, starting two.

 

South Rumors: Titans, Luck, Jags, Falcons

Perhaps no team’s free agency plan hinges on the CBA more than the Titans‘. They have three marquee free agents, and the previously reported goal of extending Ryan Tannehill soon looks to have an auxiliary purpose. The Titans’ hopes of extending Tannehill before the franchise-transition tag window closes March 12 doubles as a way to keep Tannehill, Derrick Henry and Jack Conklin. Tennessee would then like to use both its tags on Henry and Conklin, Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports notes. The Conklin component here is interesting, as little has emerged on a possible reunion between the tackle and the Titans. It will almost certainly require a tag to keep the former first-round lineman off the market. Conklin has generated immense interest thus far.

This Titans plan might not be viable, leading to some frenetic extension talks in order to prevent them from losing two members of this trio. Teams may not be permitted to use both tags. While a ruling has yet to emerge, the possibility of a CBA ratification forcing a team to vacate one of its tags remains in play.

Here is the latest from the South divisions:

  • No surprise here, but the Jaguars are prepared to use their franchise tag on Yannick Ngakoue, La Canfora adds. The standout defensive end held out from Jags offseason activities last year and will not be pleased the team will prevent him from hitting the market, per JLC. The Jaguars not picking up Marcell Dareus‘ option freed up $20MM in cap space, giving them just more than $21MM — just enough for an approximately $18MM Ngakoue tag. GM Dave Caldwell called Ngakoue the team’s top priority at the end of last season.
  • Jim Irsay appears to be hoping Andrew Luck will change his mind, but Frank Reich does not expect him to. The Colts HC continues to talk to the team’s former franchise quarterback, but those discussions apparently do not progress to the subject of a comeback. “I talk to him; we communicate. I sense none of that. We don’t talk about that,” Reich said, during an appearance on PFT Live, about an NFL return for the 30-year-old passer. “I think he’s retired. He’s like any other ex-player. You’re always going to miss your buddies in the locker room. That’s normal. I don’t read into that a clue that he wants to come back. He’s just a good friend.”
  • A Falcons cog for seven seasons, Kemal Ishmael will likely have to find another team in order to continue his career. The seven-year veteran linebacker-safety will not be brought back, according to Ishmael’s agent (via D. Orlando Ledbetter of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution). The Falcons have shuttled the 28-year-old defender/special-teamer between safety and linebacker and have re-signed him to one-year deals in each of the past three offseasons.

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.

Titans Willing To Tag Derrick Henry

Spoiler alert: the Titans want to keep Derrick Henry. The 2019 rushing champion has carried the Titans to this afternoon’s AFC Championship Game, and if Tennessee should win and advance to the Super Bowl, Henry will be a big reason why.

But the Alabama product is eligible for free agency in March, and we heard last month that the Titans had not had any internal discussions about a new deal for Henry. Since then, Henry has continued to dominate, and he piled up nearly 400 rushing yards in the team’s two playoff wins over New England and Baltimore.

Per Ian Rapoport of NFL.com, the Titans want to keep Henry, and they are willing to use the franchise tag if necessary. Of course, the club also wants to retain Ryan Tannhill, so there are some major negotiations looming whenever Tennessee’s season is over.

If the Titans cannot work out a long-term deal with either player by the time they are permitted to use the franchise or transition tag on February 25, they can use one tag on Henry and the other on Tannehill to buy themselves more time (provided that there is not a new labor agreement in place by that point). As Rapoport notes in a separate piece, Tannehill has cashed in on a number of his incentives this year and will pocket $10.25MM for his 2019 performance, though he will get a huge raise in 2020.

Given his ability to take over a game and his fairly light usage over his first two years in the league, Henry will doubtlessly be aiming for the top of the RB market. Tennessee — which entertained trade talks for Henry prior to the 2018 trade deadline — is open to a multi-year pact, but it may have to dole out at least $15MM per year and around $50MM or so in guarantees to get that done.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Injury Updates: Ingram, Haskins, Murray

Here are the key injuries which we’ve seen some reporting on:

  • The Ravens officially clinched the top seed in the AFC with their win over the Browns on Sunday, but Baltimore fans were left holding their breath when running back Mark Ingram went down with a calf injury. Head coach John Harbaugh told reporters after the game there’s no structural damage, but a source told Adam Schefter of ESPN.com that Ingram suffered a calf strain (Twitter link). Ingram was wearing a walking boot after a game, via a tweet from Josina Anderson of ESPN. Harbaugh was trying to sound optimistic, but calf strains can linger. Fortunately for Baltimore, he’ll have Week 17 and a first-round bye to rest.
  • Dwayne Haskins has been getting a lot better recently, so it was unfortunate to see him go down with an ankle injury during the Redskins’ loss to the Giants. Interestingly, Haskins said after the game that he lobbied to return, but owner Dan Snyder personally told him not to go back in, per John Keim of ESPN.com. Normally it’d be unusual for an owner to be consulting directly with a player during a game, but this is the Redskins we’re talking about. Washington is in line for the second overall pick right now, and they could opt to be conservative and sit Haskins in Week 17.
  • Speaking of rookie quarterbacks, Kyler Murray was also knocked out on Sunday with a hamstring injury. Head coach Kliff Kingsbury told reporters after the game he wasn’t sure if Murray would be able to play in Week 17 against the Rams. Murray had a large wrap on his hamstring and if it was bad enough to knock him out immediately he could be up against it to play next week. Brett Hundley, who finished off Arizona’s upset win over the Seahawks, would start next week if he isn’t ready.
  • One last quarterback update, as Mason Rudolph was sidelined with a shoulder injury shortly after being reinserted for a benched Devlin Hodges. The Steelers’ quarterback situation is an absolute mess right now as they prepare for a must-win game against the Ravens. Hodges came back in for Rudolph, and resumed struggling. Rudolph provided an instant spark after relieving Hodges, so he’ll almost certainly start against Baltimore if he’s healthy. Rudolph was seen leaving the stadium with his arm in a sling, per Ray Fittipaldo of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Twitter link).
  • The Titans can clinch a playoff berth with a Week 17 win over the Texans, and fortunately they’ll be getting a boost to their offense. Running back Derrick Henry was inactive for their loss to the Saints on Sunday, but he is expected to play against Houston, a source told Schefter (Twitter link). Henry has been dealing with a hamstring issue.
  • The winner of the Week 17 game between the 49ers and Seahawks will determine who wins the NFC West and in turn hosts a playoff game, and both sides are banged up. San Francisco pass-rusher Dee Ford has missed most of the last month with a hamstring injury and he’s not expected to play against Seattle, a source told Matt Maiocco of NBC Sports. They gave up a second-round pick to land Ford this offseason, then signed him to a massive extension, and he’s been a bit of a disappointment. Fortunately for the 49ers, the Seahawks are dealing with even more significant health issues.