Derrick Henry, Titans

Getty Running back Derrick Henry of the Tennessee Titans.

The Minnesota Vikings thought they had a solid succession plan in place for perennial Pro Bowler Dalvin Cook when they released the running back this summer. They were wrong.

Alexander Mattison struggled, while second-year man Ty Chandler had moments here and there, though most came near the season’s end. Minnesota has major roster holes to fill, namely two in the shapes of quarterback Kirk Cousins and Pro-Bowl pass rusher Danielle Hunter. Both players could be back, though their price tags will make building out the rest of the roster difficult, and Minnesota must also address its secondary in the coming months.

General manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah, who has an NFL background rooted firmly in the field of analytics, did not value the running back position particularly highly in his first two years at the helm of the organization. Considering the team’s needs heading into the 2024 offseason, he is even less likely to be inclined toward spending big on a primary rusher to complement what should be a stellar passing attack — especially if Cousins returns.

However, the declining RB market could make it possible for the Vikings to land a former superstar with some juice left in the tank on a favorable, short-term contract. Enter Derrick Henry of the Tennessee Titans.

Henry will become a free agent in March and isn’t likely to return to the rebuilding Titans organization. That said, he’s also not ready to hang up his cleats. Henry spoke about his remaining NFL aspirations during the Wednesday, January 17, edition of the “Bussin’ With The Boys” podcast.

“I want to win a Super Bowl,” Henry said. “I ain’t done playing, I ain’t even close to done playing.”

Derrick Henry Still Playing at a High Level at Age 30

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GettyTennessee Titans running back Derrick Henry.

More than just Henry’s words, his play in 2023 spoke loudly that the running back is far from finished, even despite having just turned 30 years old.

Henry rushed for 1,167 yards and 12 touchdowns last season, per Pro Football Reference, leading the NFL in carries for the fourth time in five years with 280 attempts. The RB also earned his fourth Pro-Bowl nod in five years in 2023.

Henry has amassed 2,030 carries over his eight-year NFL career, gaining 9,502 yards and scoring 90 rushing TDs. He has also caught 155 passes for 1,458 yards and 3 scores.

That the Titans leaned so heavily on Henry as their offensive workhorse for so many years doesn’t bode particularly well for his future now on the wrong side of 30. That said, Henry continued to run like a bulldozer across 17 starts last season and has only missed significant time due to injury once in his career, when he played eight games in 2021. That was also the only year Henry failed to earn Pro-Bowl honors over the last half-decade.

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GettyRunning back Derrick Henry of the Tennessee Titans.

Henry’s All-Pro days of 2019 and 2020 may be behind him, but his combination of power and speed make him worth a one- or two-year flier from a franchise like the Vikings.

Minnesota doesn’t need a prolific rushing attack to be successful under head coach Kevin O’Connell’s scheme, just a competent one to complement one of the most fearsome passing games in the league.

Henry just finished out a four-year, $50 million deal in Tennessee and has made nearly $56.5 million over the course of his career. Spotrac projects Henry’s market value at just $4.3 million annually on a new one-year contract.

The running back is certainly going to try to secure as much money over as many years as possible once the free agency period officially opens on March 13. That said, the factors of his age and rugged rushing style combined with his heavy usage over an NFL career going on a decade long will all work against Henry at the negotiating table.

Minnesota signed Mattison to a two-year contract worth $7 million total ahead of last offseason. If they can replace him with an upgrade in Henry for somewhere in the ballpark of $4.5 million per season, even an analytics stalwart like Adofo-Mensah should have some interest.

As far as his Super Bowl aspirations, the Vikings can use their impressive trio of pass-catchers and an NFC North Division title in 2022 to try and sell Henry on the chances of a bounce back season in 2024 that will render the franchise legitimate contenders come next January.

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