The Tennessee Titans signed Derrick Henry to a brand new contract this offseason. It took all offseason, too long in my opinion, but that’s the nature of contract negotiations. Just when the clock was about to expire, good ol’ Jon Robinson got the deal done.
Talk about a buzzer beater. Derrick Henry is now among the top-five paid running backs in the NFL. The contract is brilliantly structured, giving Henry the security he wanted for the next four seasons, and helping the Titans lock up the 10th ranked player on the NFL Top 100 list.
King Henry lands at #10 👑 pic.twitter.com/jSuT4n9agt
— AtoZSports Nashville (@AtoZSports) July 30, 2020
Although that day was sunshine and happiness for Titans fans, we still had to deal with the crowd of people saying, “you shouldn’t pay running backs!” They bring up guys like Falcons’ running back Todd Gurley, and even former Titan Chris Johnson as examples of guys who secured the bag then regressed.
My answer to them? Derrick Henry won’t be that guy. Let’s take a look at the most common example they give when objecting to Henry’s contract: Todd Gurley.
Gurley received a four-year, $60 million contract extension, with around $45M guaranteed, in 2018 before his rookie contract expired with the Los Angeles Rams. At the time, much like Henry, it was well-deserved. But, unlike Henry, Gurley already had covered a lot of miles being the workhorse back.
By his 2018 contract extension, Gurley already had 786 carries in just three seasons. He rushed for over 1,000 yards in two of those seasons. He had 229 or more carries in each of those seasons as well.
After his extension, Gurley rushed for 1,251 yards on 228 carries and 17 touchdowns, which is impressive. Then, he followed that up with his career-worst 857 yards on 223 carries and 12 touchdowns.
Gurley’s knees had become a point of concern for the Rams. So much so that he is now an Atlanta Falcon. Around five or six seasons of being a workhorse will take its toll on a running back’s body.
Henry has been with the Titans for four seasons, and has just 804 rushes in that span. In years one and two, Henry had 110 and 176 carries. Henry’s career with the Titans did not take off until December of 2018, when he rushed for 585 in just a month span.
In 2019, Henry encountered his first full season as the workhorse for the Titans’ offense. His 303 carries with 1,540 yards and 16 touchdowns easily marked his career best and made him the NFL’s rushing champion.
In essence, Henry just has one and one quarter’s worth of miles on him. He has plenty more left in the tank for the Tennessee Titans, which is why they can confidently continue to build the offense around him and pay him what he deserves.
The Titans’ formula for keeping Henry fresh in his first 2 and a half seasons will reward them now. Sitting behind DeMarco Murray and Dion Lewis kept his legs fresh and minimized the blows he would normally take as the starting running back.
Unlike Gurley at this point of his career, Henry is just now hitting his stride. The new contract is well-deserved, and we should expect Henry to continue leading the Tennessee Titans, and the NFL, for the next few seasons.
Featured image via Denny Medley/USA TODAY Sports