Derrick Henry is one of the highest-paid running backs in football this season, even if he has just one year on his contract playing under the franchise tag. The Tennessee Titans are going to take the gamble on their best offensive player by letting Henry play under the tag in 2020 after failing to reach a long-term deal with the NFL's leading rusher, per ESPN's Adam Schefter.
The Titans still have until Wednesday at 4 p.m. to reach a long-term deal with Henry, but the two sides appear unlikely to reach a deal by the franchise tag deadline. Henry will be forced to play the 2020 season under the tag and can not negotiate a long-term deal with Tennessee until the conclusion of the regular season.
Henry will make $10.278 million this year, which makes him the fourth-highest paid running back in the NFL this season. His value is worth even more to the Titans, a franchise that rode Henry to the AFC Championship game last year.
Henry led the NFL with 1,540 rushing yards and 16 touchdowns last season, averaging 18.9 carries a game -- even though he had a whomping 24.7 carries over the final nine games (including postseason). The Titans averaged 30.9 points per game over this stretch, but Henry paid the price having 25-plus carries four times, including three consecutive games recording 30-plus rushing attempts (96 total). Overall, Henry recorded 386 carries in 2020, which ranks amongst the top-25 all-time for rushing attempts in a combined regular and postseason.
The Titans may feel Henry's workload over the past few seasons may affect his performance in the long run, making the team hesitant to sign him to a big contract. Henry's 804 carries since his rookie season (2016) are the eighth-most in football, even though his 3,433 yards are the fourth most in that stretch and his 4.77 yards per carry is first among all running backs with over 500 rushing attempts. Henry deserves a long-term contract based on his resume, even though Tennessee can do this again after the season and slap the tag on him for 2021.
Tennessee has wanted to reach a long-term deal with Henry, but the two sides can't seem to find a number that makes both parties happy. For now, both sides are at an impasse.
"I've said it before, and I'll say it again: Derrick is an important part of what we do," Titans general manager Jon Robinson said last month. "And we're just trying to find the spot where we all need to be and where we all want to be."