By Louis Addeo-Weiss
With the clock striking 12 on Sunday, March 15th, the NFL officially began the new calendar year for 2020 – and with that came a couple of, let’s just say, interesting decisions to say the least.
For the Tennessee Titans, who made it to the AFC Championship game, where they would fall to the eventual Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs, the team announced new contracts for quarterback Ryan Tannehill and running back Derrick Henry.
Tannehill’s deal, which came through the pipelines on Sunday, sees the 31-year old Lubbock, Texas native set to earn $118 million over the next four years, with a guarantee of $62 million.
In 10 starts during the 2019 season, the former Miami Dolphin went 7-3, leading his team to the aforementioned AFC Championship, and earning Comeback Player of the Year honors as a result of his play.
The deal marks Tannehill’s second big-dollar deal, as he originally agreed to a six-year, $96 million deal prior to the 2015 season. The Dolphins would trade their former first-round pick after the 2018 season.
As for Derrick Henry, who was among the stars who shone the brightest under the playoff spotlight, the team decided to franchise tag him the day following the announcement of Tannehill’s extension.
Now, while it would be unfair to dub Tannehill as a bust – as he owns a career record of 49-49 along with a respectable 145-81 TD-INT ratio – the former-Miami Dolphin has made just one Pro Bowl during his career, doing so in his first year in Tennessee.
And while he’s more than serviceable, to dub Tannehill a better player in comparison to Henry borders on colic idiocy.
Henry is coming off a career year in 2019, where the 2015 Heisman winner led all running backs in rushing yards (1,540), touchdowns (16), and yards per game (102.7) – numbers which should’ve merited a big payday. According to financial sports site, Sportrac, Henry’s market value currently merits a contract in the range of 4-years, $55 million. Instead, he’ll earn approximately $12.7 million with the franchise tag.
The justification for the investment in Tannehill over Henry is simple; the running back position is volatile. Henry turned 26 during the 2019 playoffs, and in most cases, unless your name is Frank Gore or Emmitt Smith, running backs tend to see a drop off in their performance once they hit their late-20s.
What may be a certainty in the wake of these transactions is the fate of Henry in Tennessee. The notion of “if you don’t pay me now, I’m sure you never will,” seems all but certain.
As for the quarterback position, the likes of Peyton Manning, Drew Brees, and Tom Brady have shown us that one can continue to produce at a high-level into their 30s, and given the fact that Tannehill will enter his age 31-season, there’s reason to believe he could sustain, if not, build on his strong 2019.
All of this, however, will remain to be seen.