News broke this week that the Tennessee Titans may be looking to move on from running back Derrick Henry. The 29-year-old all-world phenom is a once-in-a-generation talent, to that few if any would argue. But his age (turns 30 next January), and mileage (102 games, 1750 carries for 8335 yards in seven NFL regular seasons) should give any well-reasoned general manager pause.
That the Buffalo Bills have a need for someone of Henry’s ability is clear to all. Or is it? Buffalo boasts one of the NFL’s more productive passing games, even when it only involves the electric Josh-Allen-to-Stefon-Diggs connection. They did field one of the most productive run games during the 2022 season, though much of that could be attributed to Allen’s otherworldly rushing ability, designed or otherwise.
Report: Titans are shopping Derrick Henry. https://t.co/e4R1mmVslu— ProFootballTalk (@ProFootballTalk) March 6, 2023
If you place Derrick Henry in offensive coordinator Ken Dorsey’s system, I’m not sure you see a major shift in personnel groupings or running back carries. But Henry would absolutely serve as Buffalo’s offensive closer. Imagine a Bills team up by 14 or more points, with Derrick Henry waiting to explode in the third and fourth quarters. It’s often unfair to label any team as unstoppable in a league rife with parity like the NFL, but the Buffalo Bills might just be one of just a few select exceptions — and never more so than with someone as talented as Henry.
It’s time to wake up, however. Henry’s base salary for the 2023 NFL season is $10.5 million, though none of it’s guaranteed. If Henry is traded, the Titans (featuring a newly installed GM) would save $6.3 million on the salary cap for the upcoming season. Tennessee could be all-in on a rebuild at this point. If so, it would make sense for them to find Henry a new home while he’s still productive and sought by teams.
Unfortunately, while the idea of trading for Henry at that price might seem enticing to many, his contract, per Spotrac, appears cost-prohibitive for One Bills Drive. That is, unless Henry’s willing to do a very reasonable deal in pursuit of a championship. The flip-side is that Derrick Henry may refuse to play unless a new, more lucrative deal is on the table and signed.
Recall, the Bills chose not to use the franchise tag on anyone, including running back Devin Singletary. Had the Bills tagged Singletary, he would have been paid $10.091 million for the 2023 season. But again, that didn’t happen. There wasn’t any room due to Buffalo’s currently very bloated cap situation.
So while we’ll continue to read headlines saying the Bills currently hold some of the best odds to land Derrick Henry, one of their AFC East rivals face much better odds. Chief among those being a favorable tax situation, locale, and the mere fact that, yes, the Miami Dolphins have far more cap space to make a trade work. But with head coach Mike McDaniel in South Beach, he may have no interest in a very expensive feature running back, Henry or otherwise.
The idea of Henry to Miami shouldn’t necessarily frighten Bills Mafia, either. Yes, it’s true that Henry has plenty of highlights running over, through, around, or past Bills named Edmunds, Hyde, Johnson, or Norman en route to a game-changing play. But look closer and you’ll find that Buffalo’s defense has held Henry in check, by and large, over the last few seasons.
Derrick Henry, Buffalo Bills running back, has a great ring to it — but the wiser move would be to allow James Cook to see the field more often in 2023. That is, unless the Bills somehow manage to draft someone like running back Bijan Robinson.