Derrick Henry powered the Tennessee Titans to one of the most unlikely playoff runs this decade, ending at the hands of the eventual Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs in the AFC Championship Game. Henry's epic playoff stretch, where he ran for 446 yards and two touchdowns in three games, capped off an excellent season; Henry led all rushers with 1,540 yards on the ground and tied for the league lead with 16 scores. He was the best running back in football in 2019, and now he's a free agent.
Henry will likely look for a deal worth between $13-16 million annually with at least $20 million guaranteed as the league's top running back on the open market. Given how the tide has shifted against paying running backs over the last five years, those numbers may prove to be a pipe dream, but Henry is as valuable as any ball-carrier in the game right now, and proved as much by winning two playoff games nearly by himself.
Tennessee's offense is so predicated on Henry's talents that it would be a huge surprise to see him leave this offseason. But, should he price himself out of their range or they choose to go in a different direction, several teams could use his services. Here are three potential landing spots for the All-Pro running back if the Titans can't retain his services.
The combination of Duke Johnson and Carlos Hyde was effective for Houston in 2019, as they ranked ninth in the NFL with an average of 124 yards on the ground per game. But Hyde, the main bellcow, is a free agent. Bill O'Brien has the powers of a general manager and is almost certainly feeling the heat after blowing a 24-point lead in the playoffs in yet another disappointing end to one of Deshaun Watson's dwindling years on a cheap contract. So they decide to go all-in and grab Henry to diversify their offensive portfolio. Henry would allow Houston to rely on someone other than Watson for offensive production and open up the play-action game with a backfield threat he has yet to enjoy in his young career. If O'Brien wants to make a splash, this is the move to make.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Tampa still needs to figure out their quarterback situation, but no matter who is under center, they desperately need more production from the running back position in 2020. Their leading rusher in 2019, Ronald Jones, had exactly one game over 100 yards on the ground throughout the entire season. Bruce Arians' air-it-out system doesn't need an elite running back to be effective, but signing Henry would force defenses to stack the box and open up the field in ways Mike Evans and Chris Godwin haven't seen. Whether it's Jameis Winston, Philip Rivers, or another name handing the ball off in 2020, Henry's talents would be perfectly utilized in the Bucs' system.
Henry has absolutely destroyed the Jaguars every time he's played them-- which is often, seeing as they're also in the AFC South. They've been on the receiving end of lengthy Henry runs too often, and decide to eliminate the possibility of it ever happening again by signing him to a big deal. Other than the benefit of not having to play Henry, his mere presence would open up the field for presumptive starter Gardner Minshew. Henry would be exactly what the franchise envisioned they were getting in Leonard Fournette, who is entering the final year of his contract after several very underwhelming years. Jacksonville has the motivation to get this done, and the fit makes sense.