A Guide to the Tennessee Titans Rebuild: Derrick Henry Has to Go

Tennessee Titans v Indianapolis Colts
Tennessee Titans v Indianapolis Colts / Michael Hickey/GettyImages

Sunday’s loss against the Baltimore Ravens may mark the end of an era for the Tennessee Titans.

Ryan Tannehill’s time in Tennessee has run its course, and it has come full circle with a quarterback change coming after a 2-4 start. I highly doubt we will see the Tennessee Titans anywhere close to an AFC Championship game this time, however.

With Will Levis poised to take the helm, and the start of the rebuild upon us, here is what the Tennessee Titans can do to get back to their winning ways sooner rather than later.

How have other teams done it?

One team that has demonstrated how to rebuild extremely efficiently is the Philadelphia Eagles. Orchestrated by now-legendary GM Howie Roseman, the Eagles bounced back from their fall from grace following the 2017-18 Superbowl win, landing another Super Bowl appearance in just 5 seasons with an entirely different roster.

The Eagles have repeatedly been successful at fostering home-grown talent. Since that first Super Bowl, the Eagles have drafted Jalen Hurts, Devonta Smith, and Landon Dickerson, all of whom are elite players. 

However, after reviewing their last few draft classes, the Eagles have a lot of misses. One is the first-round selection of WR Jalen Reagor, one pick before the Minnesota Vikings selected Justin Jefferson. The Eagles also don’t have a ton of notable late-round picks that have been successful outside of a few role players.

Although they had some good picks, Roseman hasn’t done anything unheard of in their past few drafts. Clearly the most important thing is to hit big on your franchise QB, but that's not breaking news.

What sticks out to me the most about how the Eagles have run their franchise is optimal contract management. All the rage in 2023 is winning while your quarterback is still on his rookie contract, and that’s exactly what Philly has done.

How should the Tennessee Titans emulate the Eagles?

If you look at Philadelphia’s books, you’ll see Roseman is spending their money in the right places. 

The Tennessee Titans have $16 million currently against the cap in their contract with Derrick Henry, which is notable because (historically speaking) teams don’t win Super Bowls with star running backs. Despite having one of the top rushing offenses in the league over the past few seasons, Philly has 4 quality running backs on the roster totaling just over $5 million against the cap.

The Tennessee Titans need to follow suit by modernizing the way that they build their team, and that starts with building a passing offense.

The running back by committee system is exactly what allowed the Eagles to sign former Titans’ star receiver A.J. Brown in a move that set Tennessee’s progress back by years and sent Philly back to the big game.

What seems more of a catalyst for their success is Roseman’s aggressiveness in free agency and through trades, something which the Tennessee Titans are certainly not known for.

Over the past few seasons, the Eagles have acquired Darius Slay, Haason Reddick, A.J. Brown, and James Bradberry ALL outside of the draft. Signing proven starters alongside drafting talent could prove to benefit the Titans defensive backs groups and skill positions which seem ever-maligned.

This sentiment has been shown true for Tennessee too, Sean Murphy-Bunting has been one of the Titans’ best players and is playing on just a $2 million dollar contract.

Overall, the key for the Titans is committing to a full rebuild. If Will Levis and Malik Willis don’t appear to be the solution, Tennessee must trade Derrick Henry and others to select a quarterback with their high first-rounder in 2024. Vrabel and Co. cannot afford to waste years on two low-end quarterback prospects just to be a mediocre franchise in the NFL.

Far too often the Tennessee Titans are characterized by their complacency. Now, they must be aggressive if they want to rise back to the top.