Although Denico Autry is in his age-33 season and operates as a sidekick of sorts on a Titans front seven anchored by Jeffery Simmons and Harold Landry, trade interest has emerged. With Autry in a contract year, teams are monitoring him as a deadline buy.
The 10th-year defensive lineman has become a hot name of sorts ahead of the Oct. 31 deadline, Jason La Canfora of the Washington Post notes. Should the Titans be prepared to unload the experienced pass rusher, ESPN.com’s Jeremy Fowler adds this would be an interesting market.
During a period in which the Titans missed on a few pass rushers — Bud Dupree, Jadeveon Clowney, Vic Beasley, Cameron Wake — since-ousted GM Jon Robinson did well to land Autry, who has been a central component on Tennessee’s defense despite moving toward his mid-30s. Autry signed a three-year, $21.5MM deal ahead of his age-31 season, with the contract coming during the same week in which the Titans overpaid Dupree. But Autry helped compensate for that miss, totaling 17 sacks and 37 quarterback hits between the 2021 and ’22 seasons. Thus far this year, the versatile D-lineman has four sacks and nine QB hits.
Autry is tied to a $6.75MM base salary, giving other teams a price tag barely north of $3MM to pick up in the event of a post-Week 8 trade. A former Raiders UDFA who has been a late-bloomer, Autry has done his best work in the AFC South. A midcareer Colts stay drove up his market in 2021, and he has not slowed down with the Titans. Earning another midlevel contract in 2024 will likely be on the table for Autry, but the issue now will be if the Titans like an offer enough to move on early.
Tennessee traded Kevin Byard to Philadelphia on Monday, a move that will likely prompt teams to investigate if the 2-4 club will be willing to deal away more parts. Ryan Tannehill‘s expected Week 8 absence will lead to the strange setup of Will Levis and Malik Willis each playing — perhaps alternating series, per Mike Vrabel — against the Falcons. That may be by design to showcase Willis, with Fowler adding the second-year QB is more likely to be dealt than Tannehill. The latter’s injury makes it fairly certain he will stay in Tennessee for the season’s remainder, but with the 35-year-old passer on an expiring contract, the Titans will have big questions to answer at the position soon. Considering Willis’ early-career form, the Titans will not recoup anything close to the No. 86 overall pick they invested last year.
Derrick Henry joins Tannehill and Autry on an expiring deal. The Titans reupped Tannehill and Henry during the 2020 offseason, tagging and then extending Henry in July of that year. The dominant running back came up loosely in trade rumors before the draft, but a report last week indicated the team was more likely to stick with the potential Hall of Famer. But Fowler views Henry as a player the Titans would likely consider trading, adding that some league personnel believed the team was open to doing so this offseason.
The two-time rushing champion received a raise for the 2022 season, but he remains attached to the four-year, $50MM extension he signed three summers ago. Henry, 29, is playing on a $10.5MM salary. With more than $5.5MM due between Weeks 9 and 18, the Titans would stand to run into an issue in an effort to unload one of their all-time greats. Execs around the league believe this will be an impediment to the point Tennessee would likely need to pick up some salary to move on, Fowler adds, and it is far from certain the team would be willing to do that in order to cut ties with a three-time Pro Bowler.
The Titans have third-round pick Tyjae Spears in place once Henry departs, and while teams do not make a habit of re-signing workhorse backs ahead of age-30 seasons, it is not a lock the parties do not discuss a third contract before free agency. For now, however, Henry is playing out a contract year and looms as a fringe trade candidate for a team in transition.