NASHVILLE — Derrick Henry wanted the assurance of a long-term contract with the Tennessee Titans rather than risk of playing this season under the franchise tag, and the 2019 NFL season's rushing leader said his new deal is a win-win situation for him and the team.
Helping the Titans create some extra space under the salary cap to possibly add someone such as edge rusher Jadeveon Clowney is a big bonus from the negotiations for Henry.
"If it gives us more room to bring in somebody else to help this team, then I'm all for it," Henry said Thursday. "Anytime you can improve your team at a position that we need, it's always a big benefit. Hopefully my deal possibly did that. Hopefully we can bring in somebody that can help this team and improve us more."
Henry talked with reporters in a video teleconference Thursday, a day after he and the Titans agreed to a four-year extension worth $50 million with $25.5 million guaranteed. Both sides had talked for months — even before the Titans applied the franchise tag — and through the past week.
Yet the deal wasn't completed until a couple hours before the NFL's deadline at 4 p.m. EDT Wednesday. In an uneasy offseason for the league as the coronavirus pandemic continues, it was another dose of good news for the Titans, who signed quarterback Ryan Tannehill to a four-year deal in early March — before sports shut down.
"We've all been watching, seeing it all over everywhere about the COVID and all the uncertainties, I just felt like it made sense, we felt like it made sense," said Henry, who became a father this offseason with the birth of his daughter. "I was glad to be able to lock this up and get it over with."
With Henry's deal done, the Titans added approximately $4 million of room under the salary cap. Tennessee currently ranks fifth in the NFL for most cap space, with Spotrac.com estimating the Titans with $24.1 million in total space, trailing Cleveland, Washington, Miami and Cincinnati.
Clowney, 27, reportedly wants to join a team in position to compete for a championship. The Titans could fill that request, having posted four straight 9-7 seasons, the NFL's fourth-longest active streak of winning records, behind New England (19), Seattle (eight) and Kansas City (seven), the reigning Super Bowl champion that beat Tennessee this past January in the AFC championship game.
Titans head coach Mike Vrabel was Houston's defensive coordinator in 2017, when Clowney — the No. 1 overall draft pick in 2014 — played all 16 regular-season games for the only time in his NFL career.
General manager Jon Robinson has made clear the Titans, who tied for 13th in the league with 43 sacks last season, are interested in the former South Carolina standout who played last year for Seattle. Henry said Clowney is a great player who's been competing at a high level for a while.
"If he wants to come to Tennessee, we definitely would welcome him with open arms," Henry said. "Hopefully, if they are talking, we can get something done and he can come join us. We definitely would love to have him, and he could help us in a big way."
The Titans are scheduled to report for training camp July 28.