After bursting onto the scene in the second half of the NFL season, Tennessee Titan’s quarterback Ryan Tannehill has been rewarded with a four-year contract extension worth $118 million, including $62 million in fully guaranteed money.
After taking over the starting job in week 7, Tannehill was nothing but phenomenal. He took a 2-4 team and went 7-3 down the stretch to earn the Titans a playoff spot as the No. 6 seed. Tannehill and the Titans weren’t done there as they as the knocked off the New England Patriots and Baltimore Ravens on the road in route to the AFC Championship Game.
We know how that story ended.
But still, Tannehill’s efforts awarded him 2019 Comeback Player of the Year. He led the NFL with a passer rating of 117.5, completed 70 percent of his passes and had a 22-6 touchdown-to interception-ratio. He came out and made the Titans two-dimensional and was a big reason why the Titians were able to make a deep playoff run.
Yet, it still feels like the Titans payed the wrong man. Titans running back Derrick Henry led the league in rushing yards with 1,540 yards on 303 carries. He’s also the main reason offensively the Titans were able to go on the road and beat two powerhouses in the playoffs. Henry rushed for 446 yards on 83 carriers in the playoffs. That’s good for 5.4 yards per carry! Henry is due or a big pay day, but instead the Titans franchise tagged him at 10.2 million.
This just proves once again that QB is king in the NFL and the days of paying running backs are over. I normally agree with this sentiment, but I believe the Titans got it wrong here.
For starters, Tannehill will be 32 when the NFL season starts back up again. He’s no spring chicken and his track record does not support that he can sustain the level of success he had in 2019. While Tannehill is a solid starter, he set a lot of career bests in 2019 including completion percentage, QB rating, and yards per completion.
This would look great if he was heading into his 26-age season, but at 32 it feels more like an outlier and should not be a new norm.
For Henry, he just turned 26 and his entering his 5th season in the NFL. While running backs tend to have shorter careers due to the beating they take every Sunday, Henry is built to withstand it. At 6’3” 250, Henry is normally the one delivering the blow, not receiving it. Also, the Titans did not commit to Henry as a their every-down-back early in his career. Henry was held to under 200 rushing attempts in his first two seasons. This should benefit Henry and his expected longevity.
Henry is still trending up, too, as he has increased his rushing total every season and tends to get better as the season goes along. In the playoffs, nobody was game planning for how Tannehill could beat them. All the attention was on Henry and that they wanted to force Tannehill to beat them. The Chiefs were able to limit Henry’s carries and Tannehill came up short.
With all the QBs on the market, the Titans had multiple options to explore without paying Tannehill almost 30 million a year and giving Henry his money first. Henry made Tannehill’s job much easier and probably made him look a little better than he actually is. The decision to pay the quarterback first even has Chief’s defensive back Tyrann Mathieu scratching his head.
But again, the team’s success is based on the QB’s success and vise-versa. The Titans made an impressive run that nobody predicted. A lot of that is because of the 2019 NFL rushing leader Derrick Henry, but the QB that came in half-way through gets the money.
The Titans still have until July 15 to extend Henry to a long-term contract and if they want to keep their star RB happy, I suggest they pay him what he deserves.