One day after reaching a long-term deal with quarterback Ryan Tannehill, the Tennessee Titans found a way to keep running back Derrick Henry on the team for at least one more season as well. On Monday, March 23, the Titans placed the franchise tag on Henry, who led the NFL in rushing last season. The 1-2 offensive punch will play together for at least another season.
Tennessee used a non-exclusive franchise tag on Henry, which means he can receive offers from other teams with the Titans having the opportunity to match. If Tennessee declines, the other team must give the Titans two first-round draft picks, making it unlikely another team will make Henry an offer this offseason.
It was a critical and necessary development for a team looking to build on last season’s overall record of 11-7 whose season ended in the AFC Championship Game. Earlier this offseason, Henry expressed his desire to remain in Tennessee.
The Titans are allowed to negotiate a long-term deal to replace the franchise tag until July 15, after which time Henry would have to play the 2020 season under the one-year franchise tag.
“I want to stay with the Tennessee Titans,” Derrick Henry said. “They are the ones that took a chance on me as 31 teams passed on me on the draft and they selected me. I have a lot of love for Tennessee. I have a lot of love for everyone in the organization.”
Henry, selected to his first Pro Bowl last season, was named the FedEx Ground Player of the Year and second-team All-Pro by the Associated Press after leading the NFL with a career-best 1,540 rushing yards on 303 carries. Henry ranked third in NFL with 18 total touchdowns and ranked second in the AFC and fourth in the NFL with 1,746 yards from scrimmage.
In the postseason, Henry carried his way into setting a franchise playoff record with 182 rushing yards at New England in the AFV Wild Card game before resetting it with 195 rushing yards at Baltimore in the AFC Divisional round game. Henry gained 69 yards on 19 carries in the AFC Championship game loss at Kansas City.
Henry was the only running back in the NFL to average more than 100 rushing yards per game, with an average of 102.7 rushing yards over this season.
From Weeks 10-13, he joined Pro Football Hall of Famers: Jim Brown (1985), Eric Dickerson (1984) and O.J. Simpson (1976), as well as Adrian Peterson (2012) as the only players to record at least 145 rushing yards and a rushing touchdown in three consecutive games in NFL history.
In his first four NFL seasons, the former Heisman Trophy winner at the University of Alabama Henry has rushed for 3,833 yards and 38 touchdowns on 804 carries.
In an interview at the Pro Bowl in January, Henry said he’s hungry to win a Super Bowl.
“In a perfect world, I wish everybody could come back, and we could make another run at it and end on the right note,” Henry said. “I am definitely hungry, not only to get better myself, but to win a Super Bowl. My goal every year is I always want to be better than the year before. So that’s what I’ll be striving for heading into next season. I want to do everything I can do to help the team win a Super Bowl.”
The Titans have been very busy during the frantic offseason. They have agreed to terms with offensive linemen Dennis Kelly and Ty Sambrailo, tight ends Anthony Firkser and MyCole Pruitt, cornerback Chris Milton, outside linebacker Reggie Gilbert, wide receiver Cameron Batson and special teams player Nick Dzubnar.
Tennessee still has some work to do as they have unrestricted free agents to deal with. An unrestricted free agent is a player with four or more accrued seasons whose contract has expired. He is free to sign with any club, with no draft-choice compensation owed to his old club.
Titans’ unrestricted free agents are: linebacker Daren Bates, Kamaiel Correa and Wesley Woodyard, cornerback Tramaine Brock, Sr., Logan Ryan, LeShaun Sims and Tye Smith, running back David Fluellen, wide receiver Darius Jennings, defensive lineman Austin Johnson, quarterback Marcus Mariota and offensive guard/tackle Kevin Pamphile.
Three players are now with other teams during this offseason. Wide receiver Tajae Sharpe signed with the Minnesota Vikings along with offensive tackle Jack Conklin signed with the Cleveland Browns and defensive lineman Jurrell Casey was traded to the Denver Broncos.
With the NFL Draft still scheduled for April 23-25, the Titans have the 29th pick of the first round. Things are unclear on which direction the Titans will go towards in making that pick but they have a lot of options and decisions to make.