On Wednesday, the Tennessee Titans beat the buzzer and signed running back Derrick Henry to a reported four-year, $50 million extension that includes $25.5 million guaranteed. It was a win-win deal, as the Titans didn't necessarily have to break the bank to keep the NFL's reigning rushing champ and Henry finally received the long-term security he had been searching for. While Tennessee was able to extend arguably its best player, the Titans also did something on Wednesday that could point to another potential big move being made in the near future, possibly even for the best player left on the market in Jadeveon Clowney.
If Henry had played out the 2020 and 2021 seasons on the tag, he would have averaged just north of $11.3 million over the next two years. That number would have made him one of the top five highest-paid running backs, and the Titans sprinkled just a bit more on top of that with the extension (average of $12.5 million per year), which still has him at No. 5 in terms of average money per year. What's interesting, however, is how the Titans worked Henry's money for 2020. As Brent Dougherty of 104.5 The Zone in Nashville noted, $12 million of the $15 million in 2020 is in the form of a signing bonus, which means Henry's cap hit is just $6 million. The Titans freed up more money in 2020 with the structure of this deal, which gives them just north of $24 million in available cap space, according to Spotrac. That number currently ranks No. 5 in the league.
"Really, I just thought the deal really made sense for me," Henry said of his new contract during his Thursday videoconference, via NFL.com. "If it gives us more room to bring in somebody else to help this team, then I'm all for it. Anytime you can improve your team at a position that we need, it's a big benefit. Hopefully, my deal possibly did it. Hopefully, we can bring somebody that can help this team and improve us more."
The Titans apparently aren't yet done making moves this offseason, and the natural conclusion many will come to is that general manager Jon Robinson is after Clowney. The Titans are one of the few teams to have made multiple offers to Clowney, but apparently nothing has matched his desired price tag as of yet. He hasn't been in a hurry to sign, but training camp is now right around the corner. In June, Robinson said that the two sides haven't had any recent conversations, but that it has been a situation they continue to monitor.
"I know he wants to play," Robinson said. "I think we would be a pretty good fit for him."
Henry was also asked about that possibility saying, "If he wants to come to Tennessee, we'd definitely welcome him with open arms."
While the Titans signed former Atlanta Falcons pass rusher Vic Beasley this offseason, they are looking to add more pieces that know how to get after the quarterback. Tennessee made it all the way to the AFC Championship game last season, and they are clearly all-in for 2020 as evidenced by Henry's extension. Clowney has recorded 32 sacks in six NFL seasons, but recorded just three in 13 games last year.
Does this development make the Titans the favorite to sign the Pro Bowl pass rusher? Not necessarily. The Seattle Seahawks are still interested in retaining the former No. 1 overall pick, but it's worth noting how the Titans structured this upcoming year in Henry's extension -- and that it was clearly done for a reason.