Having formally completed the acquisition of Travis Henry on Monday, the Tennessee Titans on Tuesday moved closer to securing the veteran tailback for the long term, as the two sides reached agreement in principle on a contract extension.
While some details remain to be worked out, Henry will sign a four-year extension, one that puts him under contract to the Titans through the 2009 season. Without the extension, Henry would have been eligible for unrestricted free agency next spring, and Tennessee would have faced the possibility of essentially just renting the talented back for a year.
Financial details of the extension were not yet available. The deal is expected, though, to be structured in a manner that protects both sides. If Henry becomes the starter, he will eventually earn starter-caliber money. If he remains a backup, he likely will be one of the NFL's higher-paid reserve tailbacks.
Under his Buffalo Bills contract, Henry was scheduled for a base salary of $1.25 million in 2005.
"We are excited about acquiring a player of this caliber for our roster," said Tennessee general manager Floyd Reese. "Travis is a dynamic back who will help us immediately. The combination of [incumbent starter] Chris Brown and Travis Henry puts us in elite company in terms of talented backfields. I don't know that it will matter who starts, because I envision both players making significant contributions throughout the season."
The Titans basically reached an agreement with the Bills last week to add Henry, a trade in which Buffalo received a third-round selection in the 2006 draft. The trade was not contingent upon the Titans securing an extension, but Reese and Henry's agent, Hadley Engelhard, had been in discussions about a contract extension even before the trade was consummated.
Henry will travel to Nashville on Wednesday for a physical exam and to be introduced to the Titans media contingent at a press conference.
Tennessee had been attempting for much of the spring to solidify the tailback situation behind Brown, a two-year veteran whose brief career has so far been marked by injury interruptions. Brown rushed for 1,067 yards in 2004, his first year as the starter after replacing Eddie George, but missed five games with injuries. Brown also missed five games in his 2003 rookie season. He is currently recovering from a fractured hand sustained in an offseason practices and his durability is a concern.
Henry has also suffered some injury problems in his NFL career, but is also noted for his toughness, as exemplified by the fact that he played the latter part of the 2003 season with a hairline leg fracture. It's a good bet that Titans coach Jeff Fisher will like Henry's toughess and it will not be surprising if the hard-running back actually pushes Brown for the starting spot.
In four seasons, Henry, 26, has carried 963 times for 3,849 yards and 27 touchdowns. He also has 103 catches for 691 yards and two scores. The former University of Tennessee star, a second-round choice of the Bills in 2001, rushed for over 1,000 yards in 2002 and 2003. He has appeared in 54 games, starting in 48.