Titans give star RB Derrick Henry $2M raise for 2022

Derrick Henry will collect a bit more money than expected this season. The Titans authorized a $2M raise for the two-time rushing champion, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets.

Tennessee is taking $2M off Henry’s 2023 salary, per Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk (on Twitter), bumping his 2022 wages from $12M to $14M. Thursday’s agreement does not change Henry’s contractual timeline, however. Henry remains signed through the 2023 season, but this deal bumps him to the top of the running backs list for 2022 cash, ESPN.com’s Jeremy Fowler adds (via Twitter).

This raise is contingent on Henry’s availability, but it also will provide cash to the All-Pro sooner in the form of a $9M signing bonus, Florio adds. This popular genre of restructure will create cap space for the Titans, which have dropped Henry’s 2022 base salary from $12M to $4M. The other $1M in the $2M bump will be available through gameday roster bonuses, which will only pay out if Henry is active for Tennessee contests. Henry missed nine of those last season.

This does set up the possibility of 2022 being Henry’s final year on his current deal. Should the bulldozing back re-emerge from his injury-abbreviated 2021 season with another strong year, the Titans may end up rewarding him again. This restructure also stands to make it more difficult for the Titans to move on from Henry in 2023. Prior to Thursday’s reworking, the Titans would have only incurred $3M in dead money by releasing Henry. A higher charge would come from such a transaction now. Henry’s 2023 cap hit also will rise from its previous $15.5M place.

The prospect of a new Henry deal emerged earlier this offseason. His current pact (four years, $50M; agreed to at the 2020 franchise tag deadline) is not exactly out of step with the slow-moving (at the top, at least) running back market, but Florio adds the thinking behind this move is a third Henry contract could come to pass before next season. Henry’s deal is in line with the contracts given to Nick Chubb
Dalvin Cook, Aaron Jones and Joe Mixon — each of whom being attached to a contract between $12M-$12.6M per year — though it does sit behind Christian McCaffrey ($16M), Ezekiel Elliott and Alvin Kamara ($15M).

A discussion on releasing Henry next year is obviously premature, but running back declines happen earlier than they do at just about every other position. The Jones fracture the former Heisman winner suffered derailed a monster 2021 season — one in which he still finished in the top 10 in rushing yards despite the two-month absence — and does invite questions about his future form. Henry will turn 29 before season’s end.

That said, Tennessee should need Henry more in 2022 than it did last season. After letting backup D’Onta Foreman walk in free agency, the Titans traded A.J. Brown to the Eagles. The player the team brought in to replace the Pro Bowl wideout, first-round pick Treylon Burks, has also not shown readiness to be a locked-in early-season starter. With trade acquisition Robert Woods also coming off an ACL tear, the Titans will need their cornerstone skill player to bounce back.

Tennessee also lost two of its 2021 starting O-line, cutting guard Rodger Saffold and letting right tackle David Quessenberry leave as a UFA for Buffalo, potentially raising the degree of difficulty for Henry’s seventh season. Prior to Henry’s foot fracture, however, he had missed just two games through 5 1/2 seasons. The Titans will hope the previous career trend, despite the steep mileage put on Henry’s odometer from 2019-21, is more indicative of Henry’s path than his 2021 season is.

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