NASHVILLE – It was not a package deal. No two-for-one bargain.
The Tennessee Titans paid handsomely to sign quarterback Ryan Tannehill and running back Derrick Henry to contract extensions this offseason.
And they did so four months apart. Tannehill got his four-year, $118 million deal (the year’s biggest contract for any NFL quarterback) in March and Henry did not agree to his four-year, $50 million pact until Wednesday, hours before the deadline for him to get a long-term deal before 2021. Both are now among the 10 highest-paid players at their respective positions.
Make no mistake, though, Tannehill and Henry are joined together. Their complementary skills, which were so critical to the Titans’ late-season surge and playoff run in 2019, mean they will share the burden for the offense’s success (or failure) in the coming years.
In fact, it is probably not a coincidence that their deals are of equal length. Left tackle Taylor Lewan is the only other veteran on offense currently under contract for at least the next four years.
“I have a lot of confidence in (Henry) and what he can do,” Tannehill said early in the offseason. “Excited to have him back. He’s an integral part of this team, this offense, and I know he’s going to do great things for us this year.”
Henry led the NFL last season with 1,540 rushing yards in the regular season and 446 yards (in three games) in the postseason. The Titans were a combined 9-0 (7-0 in the regular season, 2-0 in the playoffs) when he rushed for 90 yards or more. Eleven of his league-leading 16 rushing touchdowns in regular season came in those contests when he reached 90 yards or more.
Tannehill, Tennessee’s starter for the final 10 games, completed 70.3 percent of his passes and averaged an NFL-best 9.6 yards per attempt (both career-highs). The Titans went 7-3 with him as their starter, including 6-1 when he completed 65 percent or more of his throws.
Henry averaged 112.4 rushing yards per game in the regular season when Tannehill was the starter, a significant improvement from the 69.3 he averaged during the first six games and the 66.2 he averaged in 2018, his first full season as a starter.
Of Tannehill’s 286 pass attempts in 2019, 30 percent came on play-action. However, 40 percent of his 2,742 passing yards (1,095 of them, to be exact) came on those calls that included a fake handoff.
“At the end of the day, we’ve just got to – as a team, we’ve just got to keep moving forward, and keep working to improve the little things, improve the details in our game,” Tannehill said. “… Every day is a new day. Every year is a new year, and I think it’s very important that as a team we can do that throughout the year.”
Henry had to wait a little longer for his money, but now he and Tannehill know they will be together and neither has to feel like a solo act for the offense to put on a show.
“I was very happy for (Tannehill),” Henry said. “I had called him, and I had to ask him to let me hold some. I thought Ryan did a great job (last) year and he was rewarded for his play. … All of us getting, as a team … getting to the AFC Championship, [we’re] just ready to build off of that momentum and get back to working together.”