Should the Titans Think Twice Before Signing Derrick Henry to a Huge Contract?

The Kansas City Chiefs may have won Super Bowl LIV, but one of the biggest names of this year’s NFL playoffs doesn’t play for them. Derrick Henry of the Tennessee Titans was a one-man wrecking crew this season. He took a slightly-above-average NFL team and almost single-handedly carried them to a Super Bowl appearance. 

At first glance, it may seem as though it’s a fairly easy decision for the Titans on whether they should give Henry a new deal. But the decision isn’t quite as easy as it appears. Let’s examine the Titans’ upcoming decision and see if they should think twice before signing Derrick Henry to a huge contract. 

Derrick Henry’s 2019 season

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? #FridayFeeling

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The Titans selected Henry with the 45th overall pick in the second round of the 2016 NFL Draft. Henry’s first two seasons showed promise, but it wasn’t until he ran for 1,059 yards in 2018 that he started to really break out. That set him up to have quite a season in 2019. Below are Henry’s totals for the 2019 regular season

  • 15 games played
  • 303 carries
  • 1,540 yards
  • 5.1 yards per carry
  • 16 touchdowns

The AFC rewarded Henry by naming him to their Pro Bowl squad. While Henry’s 2019 regular season was enough of a wakeup call to the rest of the league in and of itself, he wasn’t even remotely finished wreaking havoc on opposing defenses. 

The insane run Derrick Henry just had in the NFL playoffs

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While Henry’s regular season was out of this world, he did even more damage in the postseason. Check out his numbers from his games against the New England Patriots, Baltimore Ravens, and Kansas City Chiefs

  • New England: 34 carries, 182 yards, 5.4 yards per carry, one touchdown
  • Baltimore: 30 carries, 195 yards, 6.5 yards per carry
  • Kansas City: 19 carries, 69 yards, 3.6 yards per carry, one touchdown

In an era where passing is king, Henry showed that having a powerful running back can still help NFL teams play deep into January. But that doesn’t answer the question of whether the Titans should give Henry a big contract. That’s a bit more complicated than a simple yes or no. 

Should the Titans think twice before handing out a huge contract?

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The Titans are in a tough spot. On one hand, Derrick Henry’s talent is undeniable. He’s increased his rushing totals every season since his rookie year. He was also dominant in the playoffs, particularly against New England and Baltimore.

It’s hard to argue that one single player had as big of an impact on their team’s success this postseason — even Patrick Mahomes had a great supporting cast alongside him. Henry was carrying an offense led by Miami Dolphins-castoff Ryan Tannehill. 

The flip side of that coin is that Henry is a running back, and running backs tend to wear down quickly in the NFL. Henry is 26 years old, which isn’t old for most NFL players. But running backs in their late 20s and early 30s do not age well due to the wear and tear put on their bodies. It’s certainly possible that Henry has five incredible seasons left in him. But is it likely? That’s harder to say. 

If the Titans don’t sign Derrick Henry before March 18, he’ll hit free agency. He’ll no doubt have a wealth of offers. But no one will likely give him a longer deal than Tennessee. Prediction: using Ezekiel Elliot’s hefty but reasonable contract extension from 2019, the Titans and Henry will reach an agreement to keep him in Tennessee for the next four to five years.