If there was one definitive statement from the Titans Tuesday at the NFL Combine it is that they want Derrick Henry back in a big way.
General Manager Jon Robinson tried to stay low key in addressing potential free agents like Henry, Ryan Tannehill, Logan Ryan and Jack Conklin, but when specifically asked about Henry he could not hold it all back.
“Derrick had a great year for us!” Robinson said, “I mean he led the league in rushing. He built off the 2nd half of the 2018 season that he had. He cares about his teammates. He works hard. He’s great in the community and we’re going to work thru that one and try to keep him around.”
Henry was a monster for the Titans, especially during the second half of the season and the playoffs when he strung together record breaking playoff performances and won the NFL rushing championship with 1,540 yards.
The question now is how much is he going to cost? Ezekiel Elliott gets $15-million a year and Todd Gurley $14.4-million. The difference is both of those players are highly involved in their teams passing games. How important that is to Henry and to the Titans remains to be seen.
The Titans could also elect to put the Franchise Tag on Henry and keep him for another season for less than $13-million in 2020.
There is also a question about who is going to back him up. Dion Lewis is expected to be released and save the Titans about $4-million in cap space. Between the regular season and playoffs Henry ended up with a massive workload of almost 400 carries.
When asked about easing that load with a running back in the draft head coach Mike Vrabel scoffed, “I usually just ask the players if they’re OK and I’ve never had a player say ‘no I’m not OK’ to get the ball.”
Robinson also said they like to give the ball to the guy who is getting it done, but the Titans do need another who can get it done in case Henry goes down or yes, even just needs a break. It is a deep running back class though and they can likely land that back up on day two or even day three of the draft.