No, the Titans should not be extending Derrick Henry

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- When Julio Jones’ salary cap savings kicks in at the start June, the Titans will move from 29th in space to 15th, per current spotrac records – with slightly over $11 million.

It’s a reasonable amount of room with no major expenditures ahead and only contingency money needed.

In 2023 we don’t know what the cap will be, but against projections, they are currently 24th, a bit more than $15 million over the cap.HenrySmokeIf they are ready to move on to Malik Willis as their starting quarterback and trade or cut Ryan Tannehill, they’d save $17.8 million against the cap and be in a good financial place.

Whatever happens at quarterback, playing with Derick Henry’s contract now could be dangerous.

ESPN’s Jeremy Fowley recently wrote that he was hearing the Titans “are at least open to a possible new deal with Henry.”

That is pretty soft language – “at least open to” a “possible” new deal.

Fowler also said in such a possible new deal the team could build in “escape hatches” if he’s extended a year or two.

Henry is 28 and coming off serious surgery to repair a Jones fracture in his right foot. He missed half the season and didn’t look good when he returned for the Titans' playoff loss to Cincinnati.

While Mike Vrabel said he didn’t see the injury as a wear-and-tear thing, it was a stress fracture and those are the result of stress which is basically wear and tear.

Running backs do not get better over time and while Henry has been an anomaly in a lot of ways, how he performs in his seventh season, even with light workloads in his first two, is a big storyline for the Titans in 2022, especially after they traded their top receiver, A.J. Brown.

Henry carries a $15 million cap number this season, third on the Titans, and a $15.5 million number in 2023, currently fifth on the team.

Extending him with escape hatches where they wouldn’t regret pushing money into the future sounds great. But is there a scenario where he gets more up-front money now and it’s enough to make him happy and pin him down for longer while he knows he could be let go through one of those escape hatches?

The Titans' approach with him has been one I am aboard with – they ride him heavily in the present and worry about the future in the future.

I don’t know that Hassan Haskins was drafted by Tennessee in the fourth round, 131st overall, as his ultimate replacement. He’s no Henry, but he’s in a similar mold – a big back with good one-cut vision.

Right now, Henry has two years left and he’s off the books in 2024.

apple icon 144x144 precomposedBefore seeing what he looks like in multiple games on the repaired foot, I think it would be unwise to put any money at all on the books for him in 2024. Even if he’s really good again this fall, that doesn’t forecast him at 30 for 2024 with two more years of heavy work on his resume.

At that stage, there isn’t going to be a lot of competition for him. Even if he’s continued to be outstanding, NFL teams simply don’t shop for 30-year-old running backs.

That would be the time to extend him if the Titans want more. The price will be right.

In the meantime, they can find other ways to manage the cap. The best one is to have been right on Willis and to develop him. Same for Dillon Radunz and Nicholas Petit-Frere.

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