Derrick Henry's 2019 season was the best of his four-year career, and it came at the perfect time: a contract year.
Henry was franchise tagged in March and signed his tag in April, securing his services in Tennessee for 2020. Therein lies a greater goal for the two sides, though -- come to an agreement on a long-term deal -- and they've yet to achieve it. Titans general manager Jon Robinson said Thursday they've had contact with Henry's representatives over the past two weeks, and the talks have been positive, according to the Tennessean's Erik Bacharach.
There's no update on whether they are closer to a long-term deal, though. The deadline for the two sides to strike a multi-year agreement is a little over a month away on July 15.
There is a case to be made for not paying a running back, even one who rushed for a league-leading 1,540 yards and 16 touchdowns. According to NFL Research, the current top five salary cap numbers for running backs entering 2020 belong to Le'Veon Bell, David Johnson, Ezekiel Elliott, Henry and Leonard Fournette. Of the top 10 rushers in the NFL in 2019, only one -- Ezekiel Elliott, who held out for a new extension signed in September -- wasn't playing on a rookie contract. And among the 10 running backs with the highest salary cap numbers in 2019, only two of their teams made the playoffs: Houston (Lamar Miller) and San Francisco (Jerick McKinnon).
Neither of those running backs appeared in a game for those teams in 2019 due to injury.
Since 2019, McCaffrey signed a lucrative extension. Dalvin Cook has been angling for a new deal. Nick Chubb will be in the same position as Cook a year from now.
But the last time we saw explosive running backs sign big-money contracts, they failed to live up to the expectations. Todd Gurley was cut just two years into his four-year, $60 million extension. Devonta Freeman saw just three of the five years in his $41.25 million extension signed in 2017.
Henry has proven to be reliable -- a backfield tank who's not only tough to tackle, but also difficult to weaken. Perhaps he will break the recent trend set by backs like Gurley, Freeman and Johnson (whose injury issues have kept him from doing much of anything since he signed his extension in Arizona). For now, though, he's on track to play on a lucrative, one-year deal in Tennessee in 2020.
As for those hoping such funds might be directed elsewhere, Robinson added there have been no new conversations with free agent Jadeveon Clowney, per NFL Network's Mike Giardi.