By Ron Wynn
With the NFL draft set for next week, the Tennessee Titans are still trying to decide which players to extend and which ones to let go or allow to reach the end of their current contracts in the wake of last season’s surge to the AFC title game.They locked up star safety Kevin Byard and center Ben Jones last year to prevent them from becoming free agents. But this season they let right tackle Jack Conklin sign with Cleveland, and negotiations have stalled with cornerback Logan Ryan. So now all eyes are on a handful of notable players, especially All-Pro running back Derrick Henry.
When the Titans franchised Henry for the 2020 season, both sides acknowledged that the point of this action was to give the team more time to work out a long-term extension. It’s very apparent that Henry’s the foundation of their offense, and that his play over the last two seasons merits more than the $10.2 million salary that is his franchise tag designation. The issue of whether running backs in general are devalued in today’s NFL really doesn’t apply to Henry other than in the general argument. He is such a significant part of their attack that his long-term role with the team should be assured. It was widely thought that the dumping of Jurrell Casey to Denver was done to free salary for Henry, but thus far no new deal. has been signed.
Some other players deserving of extensions based on their play include linebacker Jayon Brown, tight end Jonnu Smith, and and defensive tackle DaQuan Jones. Jones is at the end of a three-year deal for $21 million. Smith will be playing only his first season as the starter, but he exploded late last season, and has the potential to do even more in 2020 and beyond. Brown will complete the last year of his rookie deal in 2020 and then, assuming he has another solid year, will be a very desired free agent.
All three can be re-signed now for less money than if they continue to improve and eventually become unrestricted agents. It’s up to Titans management to determine wether they consider all or any them long-term building blocks or current short-term parts of the puzzle that can be replaced later.