The Titans were going to be the team to pay a running back

The Tennessee Titans were a great bet to pay a running back, and they’ve come through.

In the days heading into Wednesday’s deadline to sign franchise tagged players to multi-year deals, it looked like the Tennessee Titans were going to let Derrick Henry play on the franchise tag this year. Given the shelf life of running backs, and some bad recent history of big contracts for the position (Todd Gurley, etc., ), it was a smart idea not to commit to multiple years.

Even into Wednesday, it looked like Henry and the Titans weren’t going to agree on a long-term deal. But ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported the two sides were nearing a deal as the 4 p.m ET deadline neared, and Jay Glazer of FOX Sports reported it’ll be a four-year deal.

Ian Rapoport of NFL Network reported the deal is worth $50 million, with an interesting note that it’s “with basically two years guaranteed”. Schefter backed that up, with a report of $25.5 million guaranteed for Henry.

Henry led the league in rushing last year with 1,540 yards, with a tied for league-high 16 touchdowns on the ground. He also led the league with 303 carries, and he missed one game.  Then in the playoffs, he had 30-plus carry games in the Wild Card and Divisional Rounds (64 carries for 377 yards) as Tennessee reached the AFC Championship Game. In the three postseason games, he had 83 carries for 446 yards. In total, regular season and playoffs, Henry had 409 touches and 386 carries last year.

To the latter end, Henry offers little as a pass catcher (18 receptions on 24 targets in the regular season last year). So he’s not getting a lot of lower impact touches (talking in terms of collisions with defenders) in the passing game, which speaks more to the Titans’ offense than a pure lack of ability from Henry.

Derrick Henry Is Engine Of Titans Offense

Tennessee had the third-lowest pass play percentage in the league last year (51.21 percent). Ryan Tannehill maximized the passing game in a way Marcus Mariota couldn’t after taking over, leading the league in passer rating, yards per attempt, adjusted yards per attempt and yards per completion in 11 substantive games (10 starts). Tannehill of course got paid nicely himself this offseason, coming off a career year.

If it’s possible to cut bait on Henry two years in if he’s not performing, a four-year deal doesn’t look as bad as it could. But he’s the clear centerpiece of one of the run-heaviest offenses in the league, and if a team was going to pony up to pay (or keep) a running back it pretty much had to be the Titans.