Derrick Henry to Ravens is a nightmare for the AFC

During major periods of NFL player movement, like free agency or the NFL Draft, it is often difficult to find consensus when it comes to those of us in the media space grading moves. Some might view a particular draft prospect as a reach, while others view them as a better bet. Some might view a particular signing as an overpay, while others love the fit even at the price.

So when you find consensus on a move, you know a team has done something big.

That leads us to the news Tuesday that free agent running back Derrick Henry has agreed to a two-year deal to join Lamar Jackson and the Baltimore Ravens. The immediate reaction around the NFL was that this was a massive move for the Ravens, coming off a season that saw Jackson win his second league MVP award and Baltimore earn the top-overall seed in the AFC, only to come up short at home against the Kansas City Chiefs.

The Ravens are known for having a stout rushing attack, with Jackson’s ability as a runner a large presence in their ground game. A season ago Baltimore had one of the most effective rushing attacks, averaging 0.009 Expected Points Added per Rush, behind only the San Francisco 49ers and the Buffalo Bills. Here is a look at 2023 Offensive Efficiency from

One of the other teams that had an above-average rushing attack a season ago? The Tennessee Titans, buoyed by what Henry offered in the run game. According to charting data from Sports Info Solutions last year Henry ran for 1,167 yards and 12 touchdowns, and posted an EPA per rushing attempt of -0.01, which ranked 17th in the NFL among qualified runners.

Diving into that number a bit more, Henry ranked 13th among running backs in that category.

So the Ravens are adding one of the league’s best running backs on a two-year deal worth $16 million, and up to $20 million. Those factors alone make it a great move for the Ravens.

But also consider these factors. Henry is joining an offense with an already-proven running game, and a team with a solid running back room to begin with. Justice Hill is already on the roster, and the explosive Keaton Mitchell is as well. Mitchell is working his way back from a knee injury that ended his rookie season, but now with Henry in the fold the Ravens can take their time with him.

And now Henry will have Jackson standing next to him.

For a quick example, take this play from last season, an inside zone running play against the Pittsburgh Steelers:

Now, just imagine that it is Jackson standing next to Henry, adding the threat of what he can do as a runner to give the defense one more thing to worry about.

In Baltimore the presence of Jackson, as well as the other running backs on the roster, gives the Ravens the opportunity to keep Henry on something of a pitch count, using him as needed and keeping him as fresh as possible for a late-season push.

A relatively rested Henry in the playoffs for the Ravens?

Sounds like a nightmare to the rest of the conference.


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