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Henry, Titans Agree to Long-Term Extension

Deal with the 2019 NFL rushing champion ensures that virtually all of Tennessee's most productive players are under contract for multiple seasons.

NASHVILLE – Free agency and the draft were merely the warm-up acts.

With all due respect to Ryan Tannehill, Isaiah Wilson, Vic Beasley and any other player who conducted business with the Tennessee Titans this offseason, the transaction fans most wanted to see finally took center stage Wednesday afternoon.

Running back Derrick Henry agreed to a contract extension that will keep him on the roster beyond just this season. The reported four-year, $50 million deal ($25.5 million guaranteed), first confirmed by Fox Sports' Jay Glazer, negates the one-year, non-exclusive franchise tender Henry signed in April, which would have paid him $10.278 million for this season. The parties had until 3 p.m. (CDT) Wednesday either to sign a new deal or be bound by the terms of that tender for the coming campaign, and negotiations went right down to the wire. 

This resolution, which followed an ESPN report a day earlier that an extension was unlikely, answers the questions that had been asked in relation to the Titans more than any other this offseason. Should Tennessee sign Henry to a long-term deal? And, if so, for how much?

Rather than steal the show, though, Henry’s pact ensures that the show will go on.

It means that the Titans’ leading rusher each of the last three seasons, their starting quarterback (Tannehill), their leaders in receptions (A.J. Brown) and sacks (Harold Landry) from 2019, their best offensive linemen (Taylor Lewan) and the man who has more interceptions over the past three seasons than any player in the NFL, safety Kevin Byard, are all under contract for multiple seasons. Brown and Landry are still playing under their rookie contracts.

“There’s a lot of guys coming back that I think are extremely talented and good football players, and guys I love going to work with every single day,” Tannehill said after he signed his own extension earlier this offseason. “I think the guys we need to win are in that locker room. … I have a lot of confidence in general manager Jon [Robinson] and Coach [Mike] Vrabel, and the other guys that are evaluating, to put together a full roster of guys who love football and want to win.”

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Henry, Lewan and Byard all have been a part of three playoff wins in the past three seasons. Each has been to the Pro Bowl at least once, as has Tannehill. Landry ranks second in career sacks among all 2018 draft picks. Brown is one of eight rookie wide receivers in the last decade to top 1,000 receiving yards.

During the run to the 2019 playoffs and the subsequent charge to the AFC Championship game, however, it was Henry, the 6-foot-3, 247-pound running back, who emerged as the headliner on and off the field.

The 2015 Heisman Trophy winner rushed for 100 yards or more in five of the final six regular season games capped by a 211-yard performance against Houston. He finished as the NFL rushing champion with 1,540 yards. Then he delivered 446 more rushing yards in three playoff games.

“I think he went from a good running back to a very good running back,” coach Mike Vrabel said at the end of last season. “But he became a leader. I think he helped lead this football team. I think he helped carry my message, and our staff's message into the locker room. I think his durability, his effort, his toughness allowed him to be a leader. I think that when he was excited and he talked to guys on the field or in the locker room, they listened.”

A second-round pick in 2016, Henry’s rushing total has increased each year he has been in the league, from 490 as a rookie to 744 in 2017, 1,059 in 2018 and last year’s league-leading figure. He scored five rushing touchdowns each of his first two seasons, 12 in 2018 and 16 in 2019.

Henry already ranks fifth in franchise history with 3,833 career rushing yards and is one of two running backs (Hall of Famer Earl Campbell is the other) with multiple 200-yard rushing performances.

Now it is clear that the only place he is going is further up that list.