The talk of the 2020 NFL free agency period has been the Dallas Cowboys, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Carolina Panthers, and every other team except the Tennessee Titans. And for Titans fans, this is what’s needed.
The Titans should be comfortable with flying under-the-radar. Last season, they come out of nowhere and put the fear of life into every team in the AFC. Ending the season on such a high note left the Titans and their fans thinking big entering the 2020 NFL season.
This offseason, their big concern was making sure two of their main core players would return. The Titans re-signed Quarterback Ryan Tannehill to a new 4-year $118M deal. Next up was making sure NFL rushing leader Derek Henry spot was secure.
While no new deal was able to be reached, the Tennessee Titans had no choice but to hit Henry with the Franchise Tag. There were rumblings of why didn’t he get a deal and Tannehill did? To be fair, this was a smart move.
As great of a season that Henry had, the QB is still the most important piece to the puzzle. For those in shock, let’s take a brief look at the Titans, Henry, and Tannehill’s history.
Who was more important during the Eddie George and Steve McNair era? Or, what about the years when Chris Johnson was tearing up the record books? Great individual seasons by all players but without McNair, how important was George? And as far as Johnson is concerned, the Titans didn’t go far due to their revolving door at QB.
Now comes the truth regarding why Tannehill received the deal first.
Although he didn’t begin the year as their starter, it was Tannehill who saved the Titans season. In 12 starts, Tannehill passed for 2742 yards, 22 touchdowns, and six interceptions while completing 70.3 percent of his passes. Modest numbers but Tannehill has proven, when healthy, that he can produce. Add to the fact that he’s just 31 years old and is about to hit his prime, that money was a smart investment.
Then you take Henry. In 2019, he put the Titans on his back while rushing for 1540 yards and 16 touchdowns. Staggering numbers but so were the 303 attempts. Is that a number he should strive for again? No. There is no need for the team to run Henry into the ground. Let’s keep it all the way truthful, he was lucky. That many carriers and no injuries, that’s not bound to happen again.
Then you take into account the shelf life of running backs. Yes, the good ones will have those great years and then continue to balance it out over a long career. However, there are those backs who breakout then vanish. This has to be a scary thought for the Titans. How many times have we seen this in the NFL?
Henry has been in the league for four seasons. In his first two years, he only started four games, rushed the ball 286 times for 1234 yards and 10 touchdowns. In his third year in 2018, Henny burst on the scene with 215 attempts for 1059 yards and 12 touchdowns. He was on his way.
As great of a runner as he is, he’s still one dimensional. Does he deserve to be paid? Yes, but should it be more than Ezekiel Elliott or LeVeon Bell? No. And that’s what the franchise tag was about. Henry will make $10M in 2020 as the 4th highest paid runner. And truth be told, that’s right.
He should be worth more than David Johnson but not more than Christian McCaffrey. The Titans should wait out this year and see how it goes. Right now, fans are calling for him to get a huge deal. Thats’ great considering the season he just had but just a year ago, his name was mentioned in trade rumors.
By not agreeing to a new deal, the Titans are taking a serious gamble here. This could become another Bell incident. All Henry wants is to be treated as one of the best backs in the league. But the difference between him and Bell is that Bell was putting up solid numbers before the contract issue. Henry has to prove he can keep this up.
What if he gets a new deal then gets hurt or can’t produce the same numbers? Do we really think fans won’t turn on him? This is what many players deal with after signing a huge deal. While it may not seem fair, the Tennessee Titans made the right decision.