Christian McCaffrey's new deal will complicate things for Derrick Henry

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – We don’t know how it’s structured yet, but Christian McCaffrey’s reported new deal with the Carolina Panthers isn’t going to make the possibility of a long-term deal between the Titans and Derrick Henry any easier.

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Henry recently signed his franchise tag worth $10.278 million for 2020, which lined him up behind only Ezekiel Elliott ($15 million), Le’Veon Bell ($13.125 million) and David Johnson ($13 million) in terms of yearly average, though they all got up-front bonuses and multiple years.

Now McCaffrey will be the NFL’s highest-paid back, in line for a $16 million average.

But that four-pack of backs with the new headliner re-raises the debate about Henry’s limitation: Third down and the passing game.

McCaffrey is coming off a 116 catch, 1,005-yard season to go with 287 carries for 1,387 rushing yards.

Henry won the rushing title with 303 carries for 1,540, but his passing game contribution was minuscule by comparison – just 18 receptions for 206 yards.

The top-receiving seasons for the other three backs paid more than Henry have also ben giant:

Bell caught 83 for 854 in 2014.
Johnson caught 80 for 879 in 2016.
Elliott caught 77 for 567 in 2018.

apple icon 114x114 precomposedHenry is very likely to continue to be a dominant first- and second-down running back who can run over, through and away from people.

He can take an occasional screen the distance, as he did Cleveland.

But he’s not a natural pass-catcher like the players at his position who outrank him in pay -- and it's very easy to argue they are all overpaid. McCaffrey played 96.5 percent of his team's snaps in 2019. In the 15 games he played, Henry was at 80 percent. 

Such details will be a prominent topic in any discussions about a new contract that would produce an average annual salary beyond where his 2020 number is now.

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