UPDATE: Derrick Henry has been franchise tagged by the Titans and will again be the key to their offensive game plan in 2020. The loss of Jack Conklin to the Browns is a blow to the running game though.
Titans placed franchise tag on RB Derrick Henry, per source.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) March 16, 2020
We could be looking at one of the biggest free agency periods in recent memory if some of the notable names actually hit the open market. Tom Brady, Drew Brees, and Derrick Henry are just a few of the big names set to hit unrestricted free agency when the new league year opens on March 18th. One or more stands a good chance of signing a contract with their current team before then, but there is a chance one or more is taking calls when the tampering period opens on March 16th.
2019 in review
Henry had a dynamic season and led the league in several rushing categories. His 103 rushing yards per game, 1,540 total rushing yards and 16 rushing touchdowns all topped the leaderboard in each respective category and were all easily career-best marks. Henry’s 5.1 yards per carry was also his career-best and better than the 2019 league average of 4.3 yards per carry. Part of the reason for Henry’s huge production was big touch volume, and he ranked fifth overall in total touches while recording the most rushing attempts of any player. Henry’s performance earned him his first career Pro Bowl selection.
As far as fantasy scoring goes, Henry was second among all RBs in standard scoring and fourth among all RBs in PPR scoring.
Running back is generally not considered a high-leveraged position in today’s NFL, as they can have a short shelf life and be fairly interchangeable. As a result, RBs are not always in high-demand in free agency, and the average salary for running backs is lower than most other positions, sitting behind QB, WR, TE and OL in average salary per position on offense. That said, we have seen some RBs get paid recently, including Le’Veon Bell and Ezekiel Elliott. Henry’s incredible performance down the stretch should make him an appealing target for some teams in free agency, although his lack of pass-catching could limit some of his suitors.
Teams in most need of a running back include the Dolphins and Buccaneers. Miami and Tampa Bay each ranked in the bottom five in rushing efficiency and each rank in the top five in available cap space heading into free agency, although it’s unclear if the Dolphins will want to commit big money to a running back while they are still rebuilding. Tennessee’s division rival, the Texans, also need a running back as Carlos Hyde and Lamar Miller are both set to enter unrestricted free agency.
Do the Titans want to keep him?
The Titans had tremendous success making Henry the focal point of their offense, earning big upset wins in the playoffs in road games over the Patriots and Ravens. Henry has also spoken recently as if he has the Titans in his future, referring to the Titans as “we” when discussing the team’s quarterback situation for 2020. The Titans have the leverage of using the franchise tag on Henry to keep him in Tennessee if the teams are unable to reach a long-term agreement, although they could also use it on quarterback Ryan Tannehill. Henry has indicated that he would prefer to stay with the Titans, which makes them the favorites to retain Henry.
Henry staying in Tennessee would likely be best for his fantasy production, as there is a history of the Titans giving him titanic touch volume to help fuel his fantasy production. Henry recorded at least 30 rushing attempts in three straight games towards the end of the 2019 season, two of which came in the playoffs. It’s unknown if other teams would be willing to build their offense around Henry like the Titans have shown a willingness to do.
There are no rumors circulating at this point.