Tennessee Titans didn’t get emotional with Derrick Henry.
Derrick Henry has been an incredible running back for the Tennessee Titans since December 2018, and he has been the motor for that offense.
However, when he was set to hit free agency this offseason, there was some hesitation from the fan base on what exactly the team should do with a 26-year-old running back who had some injuries down the stretch.
Granted, if the Titans did want to offer Henry a big contract then being in SEC country made it easy to appeal to fans who had been watching Henry since college. However, those same fans also probably saw Todd Gurley get a huge deal only to be a complete and utter disappointment every game after that.
That is why it makes sense to give Henry the franchise tag and see just how well he can produce after his first 300 carry season in the NFL. Bleacher Report agreed in a recent article calling that move one of the smartest in the NFL this offseason:
"Running back Derrick Henry was unquestionably the centerpiece of the Tennessee Titans offense in 2019. He led the NFL with 1,540 rushing yards, added 206 receiving yards and scored 18 touchdowns. He also carried the Titans all the way to the AFC title game.Retaining Henry in the offseason was a smart move for the Titans. Doing so without giving him a lucrative long-term commitment was even smarter.While using the franchise tag was not exactly fair to Henry—who rightfully deserves financial security—it was the right move for the franchise. Investing heavily in running backs long-term rarely pays off, which is why the Rams cut Todd Gurley and why the Jets may be kicking themselves for signing Le’Veon Bell last offseason.Trying to retain Henry, who had 518 carries over the past two seasons, on a year-to-year plan is the savvy play."
Does that mean it is dumb to sign Henry to a long-term deal?
No, it makes sense to sign Henry to a long term deal but the terms have to be correct. Given what we know about the longevity of running backs in the NFL and how new this dominant version of Derrick Henry is, working out a contract that gives Henry the chance for some big incentives makes a lot of sense.
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If Henry stays dominant then make that clear in his contract by giving him a big deal with a lot hinging on performance.
Get 1,000 yards? That is another million.
Lead the NFL in rushing touchdowns? Here is another $2 million.
Play 80% of the snaps? Make $1 million more.
And you do this to the point where you have a running back on a manageable deal year to year, but if he thrives then you pay him like he deserves to be paid.
However, it is hard to get a contract like that done with so little time to negotiate, so until then you give Henry the franchise tag and continue to hammer out the finer points over the summer.
Jon Robinson did a great job being patient and restraining his emotions and the potential recency bias. That is how you really win the offseason, by retaining your best players on reasonable contracts and using the system to your advantage.