With the exception of Patrick Mahomes and Lamar Jackson, arguably no player in the NFL was more important to their team than Derrick Henry last season. The Titans All-Pro running back led the league in attempts, yards and touchdowns and was the driving force in the Titans making the AFC Championship Game.
How will he be rewarded? By watching a teammate get an undeserved contract in free agency while he likely gets a franchise tag after playing four years on an undervalued rookie contract. Yeah, I'd be pissed if I were Henry.
The Titans announced they are giving quarterback Ryan Tannehill a four-year, $118 million deal with $62 million guaranteed and an average of $29.5 million per year. That for a 31-year-old who has only started 10 games for them and was backing up Marcus Mariotta at the beginning of last season.
Meanwhile, Henry is expected to be hit with the franchise tag, which would net him a one-year deal worth around $10.3M guaranteed. While that would nearly double his career earnings (he signed a four-year, $5.4M contract after being picked in the second round), it would make him the fifth highest paid RB in terms of average and still not give him the guaranteed contract he's earned over the last two years.
In the NFL, not all positions are created equal, and the quarterback position is valued twice as high as the running back position. But Tannehill benefited from Henry's performance far more than the other way around and the Titans only made the playoffs because Henry rushed for nearly 900 yards over the last six games he played in at the end of the season.
In his entire career, Henry won't make as much money as Tannehill just made in that one contract (highest guarantee for a RB on his second contract is $28M). In the first five years of his career, he'll make less than Tannehill does this coming season. While, as mentioned above, discrepancy exists in the NFL contractual hierarchy, Henry has every right to be frustrated based on the contract Tannehill just signed.