Could 2022 be the final season of Derrick Henry in a Tennessee Titans uniform? At first thought, the idea of a Derrick Henry-less Titans team in 2023 and beyond seems unfathomable. However, the more you dive into the logistics, the more realistic it becomes.
In 2023, Derrick Henry’s cap hit stands at $15.5M, one of the highest amongst all running backs in the NFL. Although Henry is among the leagues best runners, paying running backs hasn’t proven to be a winning formula. Since 2009, only 1 Super Bowl-winning running back made more than 2M the year his team won it all.
In the Titans week 8 matchup vs the Indianapolis Colts, Derrick Henry suffered a fracture of his fifth metatarsal in his right foot. The injury that caused him to miss the final 9 games of the regular season. He was able to return in Tennessee’s heart-breaking playoff loss vs Cincinnati. However, a broken foot doesn’t foreshadow a very positive future for a soon to be 29-year-old running back, with 1,084 touches over the past 3 seasons.
The Titans’ (Future) Backfield
Despite Henry’s injury, the Titans run game didn’t seem to lose much of a step in his absence. The tandem of D’Onta Foreman and Dontrell Hilliard proved to be a formidable one, while both making just the league minimum salary. Although the duo may not have replicated the King’s impact, they basically mirrored his production for substantially less money. The Titans saw D’Onta Foreman depart for Carolina this off-season, but managed to keep Dontrell Hilliard around for another season in two tone blue. The team also went on to draft Hassan Haskins, a physical, down hill runner out of Michigan. Haskins showcases a play style very similar to likes of Derrick Henry. There’s a strong possibility that Jon Robinson and co. view Haskins as Henry’s successor. Although it’ll be hard for 22-year-old to replicate the impact of the king, his cap figure is much more manageable going forward.
By relieving Henry of his duties next off-season, the Titans would save $12.5M in cap space. This off-season, key cogs of the team such as David Long Jr., Amani Hooker, and Nate Davis are set to be free agents. Meanwhile, guys like Kristian Fulton and Jeffery Simmons are extension eligible. The Titans can put that $12.5M to better use then an aging RB with tons of tread on his tires. Although it’ll be hard for Titans fans to stomach losing a fan favorite, and franchise great, there’s details to prove it may be for the best of the future of the Tennessee Titans organization.