Since the Tennessee Titans signed Denico Autry in 2021, he has been one of the most consistent pass rushers in the NFL.
How consistent is he? Well from 2021-2023 he had 9 sacks, then 8 sacks (despite missing 5 games), and he has 9 sacks so far this season.
While those numbers aren't eye-popping, they put him in lofty company. Here are the seven other NFL players who have 8+ sacks in each of the last three seasons:
1. Myles Garrett (2 All-Pros)
2. Nick Bosa (All-Pro, Defensive Player of the Year)
3. Micah Parsons (2 All-Pros)
4. Haason Reddick (1 All-Pro)
5. Maxx Crosby (2 Pro Bowls)
6. Trey Hendrickson (2 Pro Bowls)
7. Leonard Floyd
While Autry hasn't had the elite peak that some of these guys have, it doesn't take away from the fact that he is one of the most consistent forces in the NFL. So, it has to be a no-brainer for the Tennessee Titans to re-sign him, right?
Well, yes and no. It all comes down to how much he will cost the Tennessee Titans.
First, let me say that age shouldn't factor into whether or not the Titans want to sign him. Mike Vrabel proved last season that he is in favor of keeping older veterans around as long as he believes they can help the team win games now (i.e. Ryan Tannehill, Derrick Henry, and Kevin Byard).
However, his age means that they probably aren't going to break the bank for Denico Autry on a long-term deal.
In terms of AAV, it is hard to pin down exactly what Autry should get because he is the extremely rare case of a pass rusher having the best stretch of his career in his 30s. Since 2000, there is only one case I could find where something similar happened and that is Trace Armstrong in 2000.
Like Autry, Armstrong had his best three-year stretch when he was 31-33 where he tallied 34.5 sacks (Autry is on pace for 29 sacks). He followed those up with two very good years and he even was named as an All-Pro for the first time in his career as a 35-year-old.
In that case, it would have been smart to ignore his age and to pay attention to what the tape was showing you. Enough of the history lesson, back to current events.
What will the Tennessee Titans need to pay Denico Autry
Looking at players around the league, there are only three players who will be 32+ years old next year with similar production: Matt Judon (will be 32 in 2024), Khalil Mack (33), Leonard Floyd (32)
Their respective AAVs are $11 million, $21 million, and $7 million. Three wildly different price tags.
Considering the current market price of EDGEs and his production, and factoring in his age, I think he is going to get a double-digit AAV, and probably closer to $11 million than $10 million.
It only takes one team to make him an offer like this, and I think there are teams out there that would think he is worth it. For instance, look at the Detroit Lions who look like they are headed for a playoff run despite only having the 25th-ranked pass rush in the NFL.
Adding Autry to that line would open up a new world for Aidan Hutchinson and that is going to be important in a division with Caleb Williams, Jordan Love, and Kirk Cousins again (?) at quarterback. They have $50+ million to spend in free agency and Autry could be a nice solution for them to win now.
Listen to how Mike Vrabel talks about Autry and you tell me that you don't think Dan Campbell would want to bring in that guy.
There are a few more teams like this including the Jacksonville Jaguars and Houston Texans, so think twice before you say that you wouldn't want the Tennessee Titans to pony up that $11 million AAV for someone like Autry.
Also keep in mind, that if the Tennessee Titans want to, they can really stretch out their league-leading $100+ million in cap space by creatively structuring contracts and adding in void years down the line when the cap is even higher. The priority right now should be to keep the good players you have instead of trying to go bargain-hunting in free agency like they did last season.