Derrick Henry is entering the final year of his contract, but will the Titans pony up to keep him long-term?
Over five December games last year, Tennessee Titans running back Derrick Henry had 625 rushing yards (6.4 yards per carry) and eight touchdowns.
That was the most rushing yards anyone had in any month last season and helped him top 1,000 yards for the first time in his career.
Henry has generally seen more work as each of his three NFL seasons has gone on, averaging over 14 carries per game in December.
Further splits show he’s been a quintessential clock grinder, at 6-foot-3, 247 pounds, with nearly double the carries in Titans’ wins compared to losses. His yards per carry goes up substantially in games Tennessee has won by one score or more.
The Titans made a solid investment at running back prior to last year, signing Dion Lewis to a four-year, $19.8 million contract. It’s worth wondering if they’re willing to do so again with Henry, but via Jim Wyatt of the team’s website any personal concern about it was quickly dismissed.
It’s starting over,” Henry said following a recent OTA. “We’re not worried about last year – last year is in the past. You have to start over.” “It’s football,” Henry said. “I fell in love with it before the money. I love football.
Henry has not done much as a pass catcher, with 39 career receptions on 50 targets. The passing game is Lewis’ primary domain, so that role is not likely to evolve going forward.
Henry has not been run into the ground over three seasons (501 regular season carries), and at 25 years old (26 next January) he should have a handful of relative peak years left. He has only missed one game thus far in his career, as a rookie in 2016.
In 2014, the Dallas Cowboys took the “use him up and let him leave” path with looming free agent DeMarco Murray (392 carries). The Los Angeles Rams went the other way, signing Todd Gurley to a lucrative deal before they really had to.
Now he’s got a troubling knee issue, at roughly the same age as Henry but with a much larger workload over any three of his four seasons.
If Henry is healthy, and most importantly productive over a full season in 2019 with the prospect of a big role throughout, he seems to know his contract situation will take care of itself.
Committing to him for 2020 and beyond is a much harder question for the Titans, but a broad view suggests they are likely to try to keep him around.