Tennessee Titans running back Derrick Henry has broken the 5th metatarsal in his foot, according to this report from Jay Glazer. Obviously this is a huge blow to the Titans’ super bowl plans, but this doesn’t put this chances in a grave.
As the trade deadline approaches, and the free agent pool of running backs looking supremely sad, look for Jon Robinson to make some sort of move quickly. However what are the viable options for the Titans to keep their playoff hopes alive?
Let’s dive in.
The in-house options
The Titans could go with the candidates already on their roster. Jeremy McNichols who has been great in the screen game, has been on this team and knows this system. Obviously, no one is going to really stack the box for his runs between the tackles, but the Titans use the screen game as an extension of their run game. So opposing defenses would have to have a RB spy.
Then you have two players in Mekhi Sargent and D’onta Foreman. Sargent proved in the preseason that he can run and do whatever the Titans ask of him. He can be that early down kind of running back that can churn those hard to get yards. The only real problem is that he’s an untested undrafted free agent.
Foreman was with the Titans last season, and in limited snaps showed a lot of promise. He average 4.3 YPC with his workload. The Titans recently worked him out, but have yet to sign him. I consider him an in-house due to his experience here and their recent interest in him.
I could definitely see the Titans rolling with a three-headed backfield. However, I think they’d be putting too much faith that Sargent, McNichols, and Foreman could do enough when the playoffs come around.
The Free Agents/PS Guys
The list of running backs available in free agency, and on other teams’ practice squads are pretty much dreadful. Starting off with Todd Gurley, who is a walking ambulance. The Ravens recently worked out Gurley after Dobbins and Edwards went down with injury and decided that the ghosts of Devonta Freeman and Le’Veon Bell would be better than him.
Duke Johnson, who is on the Dolphins practice squad, would be an interesting pick, but the Titans already have a player like him with McNichols, so he wouldn’t move the needle. Same goes for running backs like Kenjon Barner and Chris Thompson.
DeAndre Washington would be a candidate to keep an eye on due to his relationship with Todd Downing from their time in Oakland. This does not move the needle in any way shape or form for the Titans.
A guy I am completely out on, and someone who has been mentioned by others, is Jordan Wilkins. Recently cut from the Colts, Wilkins is just a guy and at this point wouldn’t bring you anything extra except depth if Foreman or Sargent were to go down.
There are a few names to sign off the street if you’re just looking for a guy to take some punishment and maybe plod forward a few yards. Kerryon Johnson, T.J. Yeldon, and Adrian Peterson. The first two are much younger than Peterson, but all three guys can probably do just a little more than Sargent and Foreman.
Peterson is just a year removed from being in the Detroit Lions RBBC, where he was able to get 604 yards, and 7 TDs on 156 carries. Obviously he is currently 36, but if you are needing a guy to just take some punishment up the middle, this would be a good option. Reports are coming out that the Titans are indeed working Peterson out this week, and I should probably just quit writing this article.
Former 2nd round pick, Kerryon Johnson, has had a rough go of it. After starting off hot in his rookie year, his production fell off every year after that in Detroit. Leading the Lions to draft Swift and ultimately cut Johnson. He is not a dynamic runner, and even with the 49ers injuries woes, couldn’t stick there either. He is a younger running back and maybe a change of scenery with a more dynamic offense that doesn’t require him to be the guy, may do him some good.
Yeldon is a former Alabama running back who has shown flashes of being a capable running back. Yeldon is a good option because he can also contribute in the passing game. He has never been asked to be the main guy in anyone’s system, and here would be more of the same. He also has played some special teams in his stop at Buffalo. If he has some explosiveness left he could be a good cheap option for the Titans.
This wouldn’t be a season saving signing, but I absolutely would love it if the Titans signed Frank Gore if nothing more for the hilarity it would provide to his already extensive resume. Bring me Frank Gore!
The less likely AFC guys
It’s always hard to trade within your own conference, but even harder in your own division, and that is why the Colts will not trade away Marlon Mack to their rival, the Titans. I just don’t see the Titans lending a helping hand while they’re still somewhat in the playoff race.
Melvin Gordon is in the last year of his contract with the Denver Broncos. Trading him to the Titans would save the Broncos $6.9m in cap space, and the Titans currently would have to make room for that $6.9 in cap space as they currently sit, according to spotrac.com, at roughly $7.2m. However, if there is a way to do this, this would be the move that could probably help the most out of the AFC guys.
Gordon, since signing with Denver, has been in a running back by committee both years and has average 4.6 YPC and has 12 total rushing touchdowns. He is a veteran who could do everything you ask of him including catching passes and pass blocking.
Much like the Colts trading Mack, I doubt the Texans would trade to a rival ahead of their scheduled games, but David Johnson and Phillip Lindsay could probably rebound here in Tennessee compared to the Texans. I also think the front office in Houston is much dumber than the Colts front office, and are more likely to make a trade to the Titans.
Both Johnson and Lindsay are guys who have shown explosiveness in the past. They each combined for five carries in a massive blowout to the Rams on Sunday. Both were outcarried by Rex Burkhead and Scottie Phillips, so the Texans could be looking to make a move with the rebuild in mind.
Johnson is a season removed from a 691 yard rushing season with 6 rushing touchdowns and 4.7 YPC. I think the Texans are absolute trash, and not saying David Johnson is some savior, but I think taking on his contract at $1.8m and seeing what he can do in this offense for a Day 3 pick would be a good move.
The same goes for Lindsay. In Denver, he was always the better running back. As an undrafted free agent he put together two back to back 1,000 yard seasons. Then Denver doing Denver things brought in Gordon and ruined everything. He then proceeds to make the worst decision of his career by choosing to sign with the Texans. Lindsay would cost the Titans roughly $2.5m and a Day 3 pick.
If you want an upgrade from McNichols, and someone familiar with Todd Downing the Titans could definitely look at trading for Jalen Richard. With Kenyan Drake there in Las Vegas, Richard would make sense as a trade candidate. he is on the last year of his contract and would save the Raiders, and cost the Titans roughly $3.4m dollars.
Richard is strictly a guy that would provide you reliability much like McNichols, but can still run when called upon. He’s not as dynamic as when he first popped on the scene and wouldn’t move the needle much, so I don’t think it happens in the end, but something to keep on the radar if you’re looking for someone who knows the system and can come in right away.
Lastly you have guys who have shown flashes, but have never been the guy consistently in Ty’Son Williams and D’ernest Johnson. I highly doubt the Ravens and Browns would trade to their rivals, but if they did both could provide a spark. I think D’Ernest would be an amazing trade, and great fit here in Tennessee, but with Hunt still battling injury, and Chubb also being prone to injury, I doubt he’s realistically available.
Williams is definitely the more realistic of the two. After being a hot name in the offseason, he has fallen out of favor with the staff due to issues with turnovers. I doubt the Ravens would trade him to the Titans, but I do expect him to get traded to someone. He has shown he can run and get some chunk plays as he is averaging 5.5 YPC for the Ravens. He could instantly help if it was realistic the Ravens would trade him.
Tevin Coleman, currently with the New York Jets, sucks.
The NFC Guys
If the Titans are looking to grab a name with some juice behind it, the NFC is where to look. Robinson also has some good relationships to lean on in that conference which leads me to the first name that comes to mind, and that is Ronald Jones.
With the emergence of Leonard Fournette in Tampa, Jones should be available to trade. Bucs GM Jason Licht knows Robinson and I think a deal could be hammered out that would get Jones here in Tennessee for a Day 3 pick. Jones was drafted in 2018 in the 2nd round, and really never has proven to be the guy there in Tampa.
He hasn’t been all that bad though, I just think people have placed a lot of expectations on him, and he never had the chance to really live up to it. His career yards per attempt lands at 4.5, and he is currently at 4.4 in limited action in 2021. He would only cost $1.4m against the cap. Out of all the realistic trade options, I think Jones gives this team the best chance at continuing success on offense.
With Art Smith now the head coach in Atlanta, and Cordarelle Patterson suddenly emerging as a force, could Mike Davis be available? Davis would only count $1.5m against the cap this year, and could technically be cut after 2021 and just leave behind dead cap of $750k.
Davis proved last year when coming in for an injured CMC he could be the guy up to a point. He can handle all three downs and provide some much needed juice to the offense. You would only need him for half the season so him burning out like her did in 2020, wouldn’t be too much of a concern. I would love for Davis to be here, but I think it may be doubtful the Falcons would sacrifice depth without having a high Day 3 pick in return, and is Davis worth that?
I wouldn’t trade a penny for Rashaad Penny. A form of currency that can be found for free in a holder at a gas station is worth more than that useless sack of nothingness.
Obviously, its going to be Adrian Peterson because I wrote this article, and no one wanted my hard work to be useful. Peterson can provide enough juice for the Titans offense rushing attack to keep them playoff relevant and winning some games. The team will still have to rely heavily on the McNichols screen game, as catching passes out of the backfield is not a strong suit of Peterson. This offense will also have to lean heavily on Tannehill, as of now, the Super Bowl chances rest on his shoulders.