The Tennessee Titans and Derrick Henry have been synonymous since the franchise selected the former Heisman Trophy winner out of Alabama in the 2016 NFL Draft.
After finishing his 8th season with the Titans, Henry has set multiple milestones and records with a franchise that wasn’t viewed as a premier destination when he was drafted there.
But entering free agency, his future with the organization is in jeopardy for the first time in his career.
Henry’s former teammate Taylor Lewan sat down with Henry on his “Bussin with the boys” podcast and pointed out the impact Henry had on the organization off the stat sheet.
“You made the Titans cool. Little Kids saw this massive running back in Nashville, a place with so much to do and suddenly the team was cool. You did that.”
In terms of Henry’s performance, he currently leads all active running backs in rushing yards with an impressive 9,502. Ezekiel Elliott, who is also set to become a free agent, follows closely behind with 8,904 rushing yards. Additionally, Henry’s 90 rushing touchdowns stand out as the most among active running backs by a significant margin.
He led the NFL from 2017 to 2022 in rushing yards (7,845), rushing touchdowns (73), rushing yards per game (90.2) and rushing attempts of 10-plus yards (197).
Following a foot injury that sidelined the Tennessee Titans star for half the 2021 season, Derrick Henry returned to form in 2022, ranking second in the NFL with 1,538 rushing yards and tied for fourth in the league with 13 total touchdowns. In 2021, he led the NFL with 937 rushing yards and 10 rushing touchdowns in the first eight weeks of the season before missing the final nine games of the regular season.
In 2020, Henry secured the NFL’s rushing title for the second consecutive year after recording 2,027 rushing yards and 17 rushing touchdowns, becoming the eighth player in NFL history to eclipse 2,000 rushing yards in a season. In 2019, Henry was the NFL’s leading rusher with 1,540 yards and 16 rushing scores. He racked up 5,860 rushing yards and scored 55 rushing touchdowns during his first five NFL seasons, including consecutive 1,000-yard seasons each year from 2018-20.
Derrick Henry capped off the prolific 2020 season by earning NFL Offensive Player of the Year, Associated Press first-team All-Pro, and FedEx Ground Player of the Year for the second consecutive season after leading the NFL with a Tennessee Titans franchise-record 2,027 rushing yards. His 2,027 rushing yards gave him the fifth-highest total in NFL history behind Eric Dickerson’s 2,105 (1984), Adrian Peterson’s 2,097 (2012), Jamal Lewis’ 2,066 (2003) and Barry Sanders’ 2,053 (1997). Henry broke Chris Johnson’s franchise mark of 2,006 rushing yards in 2009.
Additionally, in 2020 he earned first-team All-Pro honors from Pro Football Focus, Pro Football Writers of America and Sporting News and was the 101 Awards AFC Offensive Player of the Year.
Henry became the first player to lead the NFL in rushing yards in consecutive seasons (2019-20) since LaDainian Tomlinson (2006-07).
Derrick Henry Explains How Close He Was To Being Traded From Tennessee Titans In 2023
On the podcast, Henry, Lewan and former Titans linebacker Will Compton were discussing how different the Titans organization was in 2023 and the superstar running back and face of the franchise felt it the first day of mini-camp.
“I just got there and looked around and even said to KB (Kevin Byard), man this doesn’t feel like home like it always did.”
Now with the Tennessee Titans parting ways with head coach Mike Vrabel, considered a top-tier hard-nosed leader who had four-straight seasons where he led the team to the playoffs, it’s clear the organization is going in a new direction with a rebuild mindset.
Derrick Henry was stunned when Byard was traded and believed he was next. It wasn’t just a hunch, either, according to Henry himself.
“I was hurt a little bit because I came in with KB and we were the vets in the group that had been there the longest, so when they traded KB, I was like ;dang, if they traded KB I might be next.’
“Did you think you were going to because you were obviously brought up in a lot of speculation?” Compton asked.
“Oh I felt like it was close, it was really close,” Henry said.”It was close, close.”
Lewan pushed and asked if they were teams that would be in the playoffs.
“Yeah, it was two for sure, the other one, I don’t know if that would have happened but the one, it was pretty close.A lot went down with that little saga with the trade obviously/“
Compton asked the Tennessee Titans star if he was wanting to get traded or if he was fully against it.
“At that time I didn’t know what was going on,” Derrick Henry responded. “KB had just gotten traded so I was trying to wrap my head around that. And then after that happened, I’m thinking they’re trying to get all of us outta here. So I’m just trying to figure out what’s happening on my team, talking to my agent seeing what he can find out because all this stuff is out on the internet about me being shopped and me being traded so, I had to let my girl know, I didn’t know what was going on.
I felt like it almost went down.”
Compton noted when the Tennessee Titans traded Byard it was clear the organization was no longer trying to win. Byard was a staple in the organization and one of the most vocal leaders.
Which Two AFC Contenders Came Close To Landing Derrick Henry?
Lewan asked Derrick Henry what was holding him back about giving details about the possible trade situation now.
“Because I didn’t know how close it was, I just felt it was close. Like it was really close.”
Henry acknowledged his agent told him a specific team really wanted him to come over and be a part of what they had going on, while noting he didn’t know specifics about the communication going on between both sides.
Compton continued to press. “How big of a need was the running back position for the team at this time?”
“Um I don’t think it was needed that much, but could I have added a pretty good bit? For damn sure. I feel like they were already solid but there would have been hell to pay. It would have blew up.”
Compton said he had two teams in his head and they were both in the AFC.
Derrick Henry confirmed he was right.
“I think the way it would have exploded that leads me to believe the Ravens,” Compton added. “Because I think at that time when you’re kind of in a duo I could see Callahan and who’s the head coach for the Browns? Because when Chubb went down you can plug and play Derrick there.”
“Yeah and the Browns are a run heavy team” Lewan added. “They are a team that would take Derrick and say look at the Titans did with him we can do the same thing,
Derrick Henry never denied any of the speculation so it certainly sounded like the Tennessee Titans was on the verge of joining the Browns or Ravens before the trade deadline.
One thing is for sure, heading into free agency — with all the changes the Titans have made — he isn’t ruling out a return but made it clear he wants to be on a team with a roster that can compete for a Super Bowl in 2024.
It will be interesting to see how it all shakes out.