The Tennessee Titans were on the verge of a Super Bowl in large part due to Ryan Tannehill and Derrick Henry, and they would be making a mistake to let them walk.
This offseason, the Tennessee Titans will have to make a decision on whether or not to bring back their two biggest offensive stars, Ryan Tannehill and Derrick Henry
Henry has been everything the Tennessee Titans hoped he would be when they drafted him in the second round of the 2016 NFL Draft, and it is safe to say that he exceeded even those hopes.
In his last two seasons, Henry has combined for nearly 2,600 rushing yards and 30 total touchdowns. He has been an unstoppable force, a “Tractorcito,” if you will, and in 2019 he bulldozed his way through just about every NFL defense en route to a rushing title and a Cinderella playoff run.
Henry was the powering force behind one of the NFL’s most efficient offenses in the second half of the season, and this free agency period, he will be on the open market attracting massive contract offers in the ballpark of Cowboys’ running back Ezekiel Elliot’s $90 million dollar extension this past offseason.
But the Titans need Henry back playing in two-toned blue for the 2020 season. With the way he was able to carry a previously inept Tennessee offense the way he did, the Titans can’t afford to see him walk away.
The same with Henry’s offensive co-star, quarterback Ryan Tannehill, who will also be joining the free agency pool and more likely than not demanding big money from quarterback-needy teams. Tannehill had never been a “star-caliber, franchise saving” type player in his six years with the Miami Dolphins, but becoming a starter mid-season and posting a 7-3 record as he did in Tennessee will attract a fair share of bidders.
Tannehill, and Henry, will each be making a pretty penny this offseason. But the Titans need to be the ones writing their names on those checks. It will make a large dent in Jon Robinson’s $50 million in salary cap space, for sure, but with how far Tennessee made it this season, it should be worth the cost to roll the dice and run it back with these two stars.
Championship windows don’t last forever. In fact, they often close quicker than teams want to acknowledge. One year after making the Super Bowl as the NFL’s best regular-season team, the Los Angeles Rams failed to make this season’s playoffs. Two years before that, the Atlanta Falcons were playing for an NFL title, only to find themselves at 7-9 three years later.
As unexpected as it was after starting 2-4 this past season, the Titans saw their championship window shoot wide-open. Tennessee was able to dethrone the NFL’s most dominant dynasty in the New England Patriots, take command against the best regular-season team of 2019 in the Baltimore Ravens, and in the AFC Championship were just two touchdowns away from beating the eventual NFL champions and playing for the Lombardi trophy themselves.
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That success, that Cinderella playoff run, was not a fluke. Despite finishing 9-7 in the regular season, the Titans clearly found the recipe for success in the back-half of the year. That success that drove them to the playoffs began with two things, Ryan Tannehill becoming the starting quarterback, and Derrick Henry elevating his game to “NFL Rushing Title” status.
There should be plenty of reason to believe that Henry and Tannehill can have that same success again, only this time for a full sixteen game season. Henry is coming off of two straight elite seasons, but should still have plenty of strength and energy left in the tank with 2019 being his only season with more than 220 rushing attempts.
Tannehill’s situation is slightly trickier to predict, but there are still plenty of reasons for optimism. He was clearly comfortable in the Titans offensive system, putting up career-best numbers that ranked towards the top of the NFL in yards per attempt, completion percentage, and passer rating.
Tannehill was able to put up those numbers in just one year in Arthur Smith’s system. It’s possible for him that the quarterback could regress slightly, but there’s also a chance that another year in that scheme could see him flourish even more with another year of familiarity. There’s no guarantee that a rookie, or a free agent quarterback, could come in and click as Tannehill has.
With the Titans, Henry and Tannehill formed an elite duo that powered an elite offense, Tennessee’s first elite offense in what feels like forever. With Tannehill under center and Henry right behind him, the Titans were in “win now, worry later” mode, and could be again if they bring the duo back.
The goal shouldn’t be frugality, it should be to win a Super Bowl, and Ryan Tannehill with Derrick Henry gives the Titans a chance to win their first. Championship windows do not last long. The Titans need to chase theirs while they still have it open.