NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Derrick Henry, who has run for more yards than anyone else since the start of the 2016 NFL season, seems like a man on a mission.
First, help the Tennessee Titans win in the final year of his current deal and make his case for a third contract. And in the process remind the rest of the league that the run game still matters in the NFL and that running backs should be paid more.
Henry notes that running backs touch the ball sometimes almost as much as quarterbacks and remain very marketable in commercials.
“Have you all witnessed it? I’m pretty sure you all have," Henry said. "So yes, just trying to show that we are valuable as any other position. They use us in commercials and all over the place. And we just want our share due.”
That's why Henry organized the group chat among the NFL's top running backs before training camps opened. He wanted to help fellow running backs improve the market rate for the position in the near future.
Henry knows how fellow running backs who got the franchise tag this year felt. He was tagged himself in March 2020, and the Titans barely beat the deadline before signing Henry to a four-year extension that goes through this season.
“It’s tough right now," Henry said early in training camp. "Just want to do anything possible to help show our value, do it on the field but definitely try to be together as a movement to improve the situation.”
Henry has the top cap hit among NFL running backs this season at $16.3 million. Nick Chubb of Cleveland has a slightly higher base salary at $10.85 million compared to Henry's $10.5 million, according to Spotrac.com.
Josh Jacobs, who led the NFL with 1,653 yards rushing just ahead of Henry (1,538), was tagged by the Raiders. He and Las Vegas finally agreed last weekend to a one-year deal worth up to $12 million, above the tag value of $10.1 million.
Jacobs said Wednesday he knew how to approach his contact situation without needing guidance from Henry. But Jacobs, who followed the 2015 Heisman Trophy winner by going to Alabama, knows well the stories of how Henry would go to a weight room for squats and other workouts even after big games.
“He always just was a different breed of a player, and just to see how he is now, still sustaining his success and going out there and being a guy really (for) his team for this long, I mean it’s just something that I want to do here with the Raiders,” Jacobs said.
Henry became the eighth man in NFL history to run for at least 2,000 yards in 2020.
A strong regular season puts Henry in range of Eddie George’s career franchise rushing mark of 10,009 yards.
Titans coach Mike Vrabel has seen Henry's value up close the past five seasons.
“We’ve relied on Derrick as a large part of our offense and our success, and he’s had a level of consistency to be able to handle a workload,” Vrabel said.
Henry is already the franchise’s record holder for most touchdowns scored (81) and rushing TDs (78). He can join Hall of Famer LaDainian Tomlinson (nine) and Adrian Peterson (seven) as the only NFL players with at least 10 rushing TDs for at least six consecutive seasons.
If Henry runs for 1,500 yards and has 15 TDs in 2023, Henry would become the first player in NFL history to reach both marks in the same season for the third time.
The 6-foot-3, 247-pound Henry is ready to work when the Titans open the season Sept. 10 at New Orleans. The Titans drafted Tyjae Spears in the third round out of Tulane to hopefully finally find a running back to ease Henry's workload.
Henry said too often people focus more on the workload with the number of touches, and he's has had at least 303 carries in three of the past four seasons. What people miss when it comes time to talk contracts and pay is the production, which almost is used against running backs.
“All you can do is try to be the best player you can and hope the team understands your value and appreciate you trying to do the best you can to carry the load to help your team win games and get to the Super Bowl,” Henry said.
NOTES: The Titans placed WR Kyle Philips on injured reserve Thursday. They waived OT Justin Murray and signed OLB Trevis Gipson, who had been released by Chicago after 40 games and 10 sacks in three seasons, and brought back C Corey Levin. They also signed K Cade York to the practice squad and released OLB Sam Okuayinonu.
AP Sports Writer Mark Anderson contributed to this report.
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Teresa M. Walker, The Associated Press