While one team will eventually end the NFL season as Super Bowl champions, every other club will end their campaign feeling like they fell short. Rather than celebrating with the Lombardi Trophy, they’ll have to get down to business and make some tough offseason decisions. The Tennessee Titans will have to do just that, as running back Derrick Henry is due to hit free agency.
While Henry looked dominant this season, the NFL as a whole has moved away from high-priced running backs. With that reality in mind, will the Titans even resign their young star?
Derrick Henry’s rise to NFL stardom
At Yulee High School, Derrick Henry shone as a member of the football and track teams. After piling up over 4,000 rushing yards and 55 touchdowns as a senior, though, he rightfully decided to focus on football.
Unsurprisingly, Henry had his pick of college programs. He decided to enroll at the University of Alabama, but things didn’t immediately click. He didn’t get many touches as a freshman and considered transferring, but persevered; for all his issues, Henry still averaged over 10 yards per carry during his first NCAA campaign. His playing time increased as he shared carries with T.J. Yeldon during sophomore year, before taking over the top spot as a junior. Henry grabbed the starting role with both hands, rushing for over 2,000 yards, racking up over 28 touchdowns, and taking home the Heisman Trophy before entering the NFL draft.
Henry fell into the second round of the 2016 NFL draft, where he was selected by the Tennessee Titans. Although he took some time to get up to speed, the running back has established himself as a star. Thanks to his unique blend of size and speed, he broke the 1,000 yard as a plateau in 2018 before obliterating his own records in 2019.
Derrick Henry weighs in about his impending free agency
While the Tennessee Titans were never supposed to reach the AFC Championship game, their elimination still hurt. As the man most responsible for their success, Derrick Henry took the loss especially hard.
The running back, who had a disappointing day by his high standards, felt he could have done more to help the Titans advance. “I’ll definitely shed a couple of tears,” he explained. “Just because I love my teammates. I love playing football, I love competing, and I love my teammates. Those guys helped me get through a lot.”
That bond, however, could be broken by the business side of football. Henry is now set to become a free agent; while he’ll surely command a major raise, NFL teams are hesitant to offer running backs big money. It’s unclear if the Titans will buck the trend for their young star.
Henry, for his part, isn’t too concerned about the future. “Throughout the whole season, you have to stick together through all the adversity,” he said. “We have a lot of great guys in the locker room. It’s football, you know the locker room is going to change. Right now, we just lost a game. I am not even thinking about no contracts or things like that. When that time comes, I am sure it will get worked out.”
Will the Tennessee Titans keep their star running back?
While Derrick Henry is confident that a deal can be hammered out, will the Tennessee Titans agree with him? As of now, it seems likely they will.
Spotrac currently estimates Henry’s market value at almost $14 million per season. Although that’s a hefty chunk of change, it’s hard to imagine the Titans letting him walk. While the club has plenty of decisions to make during the offseason, their playoff run probably means both Henry and Ryan Tannehill will return next season.
It’s also possible that the Titans will offer Henry a shorter-term deal, which could be a win-win for both parties. The club would get some wiggle room, avoiding disaster if Henry’s body gives out; the running back, for his part, would get a massive payday and the ability to sign an even bigger deal in a few years, assuming his production doesn’t fall off a cliff.
The NFL might be a passing league, but Derrick Henry is bucking the trend. He should return to the Titans next season but, if he hits the open market, he’s sure to earn himself a nice payday.