Titans, Browns, Chiefs make smart investments in essential players

By Sports Desk July 17, 2020

As the NFL's deadline for teams and franchise-tagged players to agree to long-term contract extensions came to pass, the biggest deal was the deal that didn't happen.

So while the soap opera between Dak Prescott and the Dallas Cowboys gets to air another year after the two sides failed to work out a contract that would have put the talented quarterback among the NFL's highest-paid players, a few other teams were busy locking up vital players amid less fanfare.

Derrick Henry will still be pounding the rock for the Tennessee Titans for the foreseeable future, the Cleveland Browns made Myles Garrett the league's highest-paid defensive player and the Kansas City Chiefs will have defensive lineman Chris Jones on board for what should be an extended window for another Super Bowl run.

When breaking down those aforementioned agreements, it appears all three teams were able to get good value even in what's arguably been the most volatile offseason in league history.

Let's start with Henry. On the surface, the four-year, $50 million contract the Titans gave the 2019 NFL rushing champion looks rather risky considering the often short shelf life of running backs and how a similar pact the Los Angeles Rams constructed with Todd Gurley two summers ago spectacularly backfired.

But Tennessee wisely front-loaded the deal, with most of the $25.5 million in guarantees on the books for the first two seasons, and can cut bait without much penalty after 2021 in the event Henry begins to show a steep decline.

It's not hyperbole to suggest that Ryan Tannehill's breakthrough 2019 season was a direct result of the threat Henry presented to opposing defenses as a runner. By extending their most important player, the Titans have not only given their quarterback his best chance to succeed, they've increased their chances of again contending for an AFC title for at least the next two years.

Of course, the road to an AFC championship still figures to go through Kansas City following the reigning Super Bowl champions' massive recent spending spree that resulted in 2018 NFL MVP Patrick Mahomes landing a record 10-year extension worth up to $503 million and Jones agreeing to a four-year, $80 million deal.

The Chiefs will have some tough decisions to make to get under the salary cap once the big money in Mahomes' contract kicks in after this season, but they've rightfully identified Jones, whose 24.5 sacks over the last two seasons trails only Aaron Donald for the most among interior defensive linemen, as a player to keep.

And the 2019 Pro Bowler gets the benefits of some long-term security and the chance to reach free agency at the relatively young age of 30 - not to mention the opportunity to realistically add a few more rings to his collection.

Extending Garrett may not have been an urgent matter for the Browns, as the 2017 number one overall pick still had two seasons remaining on his rookie contract, but the five-year, $125 million extension was a shrewd, forward-thinking move by new general manager Andrew Berry.

Sure, $25 million a year for a non-quarterback is a lot of coin, but Cleveland has the most cap space in the league right now and with the way the pass-rusher market has been trending, that annual salary could be a relative bargain down the road if Garrett continues to produce double-digit sacks towards the latter end of the deal.

After years and years of bumbling leadership hires, the Browns just maybe have finally gotten it right this winter with the additions of two impressive young minds in Berry and new coach Kevin Stefanski.

It's still way too early to gauge the impact the coronavirus will ultimately have on the NFL's economic landscape in the coming years, but the Titans, Chiefs and Browns at least appear to have positioned themselves well for the potential pitfalls that may lie ahead.

Related items

  • Tua Tagovailoa named Miami Dolphins starter – reports Tua Tagovailoa named Miami Dolphins starter – reports

    The Miami Dolphins have named Tua Tagovailoa as their starting quarterback, the rookie first-round pick taking over from Ryan Fitzpatrick.

    Miami selected Tagovailoa with the fifth overall pick in the 2020 draft, despite concerns over a dislocated hip he suffered in his final college game for Alabama last November.

    He made his debut on Sunday, appearing late in the fourth quarter as the Dolphins eased to a 24-0 win over the New York Jets to improve to 3-3.

    And, according to reports from ESPN's Adam Schefter and NFL Network's Tom Pelissero, he will replace Fitzpatrick after Miami's Week 7 bye and make his first start against the Los Angeles Rams on November 1.

    Though his errors did not prove critical against a dismal Jets team still waiting for their first win, Fitzpatrick was underwhelming in Week 6 as he threw for 191 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions.

    His seven interceptions are the third-most in the NFL behind Kirk Cousins (10) and Carson Wentz (nine). Fitzpatrick is 18th of 33 qualifying quarterbacks in adjusted net yards per attempt with 6.62.

    The 37-year-old was always seen as a placeholder and mentor for Tagovailoa, who will hope to reproduce his spectacular college performances at the highest level of the sport.

    Tagovailoa threw for 7,442 yards, 87 touchdowns and 11 interceptions in a storied career with Alabama that saw him replace Jalen Hurts for the second half of the National Championship game at the end of the 2017 season and lead them to a dramatic overtime win over Georgia.

    The most efficient quarterback in college football history with a 199.4 rating at Alabama, the Dolphins will hope Tagovailoa can provide an instant spark as they look to contend with the 4-2 Buffalo Bills in the race for the AFC East title.

  • Murray right at home in Texas as Cardinals capitalise on big plays Murray right at home in Texas as Cardinals capitalise on big plays
  • Elliott takes the blame after Cardinals crush Cowboys: This one is on me Elliott takes the blame after Cardinals crush Cowboys: This one is on me

    Ezekiel Elliott issued an apology following the Dallas Cowboys' heavy loss to the Arizona Cardinals, admitting after two costly fumbles: "I need to be better".

    The Cardinals improved to 4-2 as they thrashed the Cowboys 38-10 in Texas, running all over their opponents as they amassed 261 total rushing yards in the one-sided contest on Monday.

    Dallas were without starting quarterback Dak Prescott, who suffered a season-ending ankle injury during the Week 5 win over the New York Giants. The defeat drops them to 2-4 for the season, though they still remain top of the NFC East.

    Running back Elliott insisted the result was not down to Prescott's absence, instead pointing to his pair of fumbles in the first half as key moments. Having lost possession on back-to-back drives, he accepted responsibility for the result.

    "I don't think we can use that [Dak's absence] as an excuse," Elliott told the media.

    "I'm just going to keep saying it over and over - I started the game out with two fumbles, gave the ball away and gave them all the momentum they need to go take off.

    "I want to say I'm sorry and this one is on me. I need to be better."

    Both turnovers led to touchdowns for Arizona and, after Kenyan Drake put the Cardinals 14-0 up, Tony Pollard - not Elliott - was on duty at running back for the Cowboys.

    Dallas head coach Mike McCarthy made clear that despite the change during the game, Elliott remains the team's lead back.

    "Every player who plays in this league, and it's no different on our football team, if you don't take care of the football it obviously affects your opportunities," McCarthy said in his post-game media conference.

    "Tony got an opportunity, I thought he did some really good things. At the end of the day, Zeke is our bell cow and we need to get it right. He's part of the plan and he's going to be part of our success.

    "We need to get it right and take care of the football, that's for everyone who touches the football on our team."

    Elliott finished the game with 49 rushing yards on 12 attempts, while Pollard had 31 yards on 10 carries.

    The Cowboys are on the road in Week 7, taking on divisional rivals Washington.

© 2020 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.