Derrick Henry's Contract
Updated: Aug 24, 2020
The Tennessee Titans have franchised tagged the 2019 NFL rushing champion Derrick Henry. The 6ft 3, 247 lb running back led the league with 303 carries and 1539 yards in 2019, along with tying Green Bay Packers running back Aaron Jones for the rushing touchdown title with 16. Henry, a former Heisman Trophy winner in 2015 was also selected to his first Pro-Bowl in 2019 as well as being named in the Second Team All-Pro.
The 26-year-old running back will play on a 1 year $10.2 million contract in 2020, despite this both the Titans and Henry have expressed a desire to agree terms on a long-term deal. Henrys deal will likely be 4 years taking him into his age 30 season and pay him between $15 and $17 million annually due to Panthers running back Christian McCaffery’s record setting deal. McCaffrey’s deal is 4 years, $64 million, with $38 million guaranteed and works out at an average annual salary of $16 million. While at most positions’ contracts tend to go on a next man up basis the running back position has been undervalued in recent years. Hence it is hard to judge whether Henry will jump or fall short of McCaffery’s extension. The only knock on Henry which may lead to him falling short of McCaffery is his lack of ability in the passing game, unlike McCaffrey who caught 116 balls for 1,005 yards in 2019 along with his 1,387 rushing yards, Henry only caught 18 passes for 206 yards in 2019 and did have some drops. Despite this he proved in week 1 he is capable once the ball is in his hands, taking a screen pass 75 yards to the house against the Cleveland Browns.
One positive for Henry going into his contract negotiations is the lack of wear on his body. For example, Ezekiel Elliot has averaged 340 touches per year in his first 4 years and Christian McCaffrey has averaged 309 touches per year in his first 3 years. Whereas Henry has only averaged 215 touches per year in his first 4 years. Henry has 497 less touches than Elliot who signed a 6-year $90 million contract, putting him at $15 million annually. Further, if McCaffrey usage remains at the same rate after his fourth year, he will have 373 more touches than Henry in his 4 years. Therefore, Henry has at least a season full of less wear on his body meaning his play is less likely to deteriorate along with his value.
Another positive for Henry going into negotiation is how vital he is to the Titans offense. When Henry rushes for over 100 yards the Titans are 13-0. Over the past two seasons he was second in rushing yards and touchdowns with 2,599 yards and 28 touchdowns. Further, in the 2019 regular season Henry accounted for 33% and 30% of Tennessee’s touchdowns and offensive yards. Then in the 2019 postseason he accounted for 30% and 52% of the Titan’s touchdowns and offensive yards.
On course to the Titans riding Henry to the AFC Championship he broke numerous NFL records. Henry set an all-time record for the most rushing yards in any eight-game stretch in NFL History. From week 10, he rushed 203 times for 1,273 yards and 11 touchdowns averaging 6.27 yards per carry. He was also the 1st player in NFL history to post at least 170 rushing yards in consecutive career playoff games. Henry further has 561 rushing yards in the playoffs. No player has ever gained as many in his first four playoff games in the modern era.
Additionally, Henry’s freak athletic ability gives the Titans a premium advantage in their division. The Titans share their division with the Colts, Jaguars and the Texans, meaning Henry faces some top line-backers. Henry is taller and bigger than Darius Leonard, Joe Schobert, Myles Jack and Zach Cunningham his divisions line-backer as well as potentially the best middle line-backer in the NFL Bobby Wagner. Not only is Henry taller and bigger than the majority of NFL line-backers he hit a top speed of 20.93 mph in 2019.
In my opinion, Derrick Henry is the best pure runner in the NFL. He is the kind of superstar running back the Titans can build their entire offense around while winning games, as shown by their 2019 AFC Championship appearance and he should therefore be paid as such by the Titans.
Image by: Tennessee Titans