Maybe the biggest surprise release of the 2010 off season was Jaguars DT John Henderson.
After being released, speculation emerged that Henderson was washed up and no longer a Pro Bowl caliber tackle. Reports suggested Henderson had character issues and coach Del Rio didn’t want the distraction any longer.
Is he washed up? The truth may be hidden in the details.
Because none of us actually know how much Henderson has left in the tank or what went on behind closed doors in Jacksonville, lets look at the facts of the off season.
Beginning in March, the Jaguars set out to improve on their league worst 14 sacks last season. (In fact, the Raiders were 2 sacks away from being in the top 10 in sacks with 37) They signed Aaron Kampman to a contract worth over $5 mil per season – not to mention a hefty signing bonus.
The Jags followed up this move by drafting California DT Tyson Alualu with their 10th overall selection and DT D’Anthony Smith with their next pick. Both are listed under 300 lbs and reflect the emphasis the Jags are placing on athletic interior lineman to get after the quarterback.
While Alualu isn’t signed, his contract will most likely amount to about $4 million per season based on where he was selected. The Jaguars are still paying Derrick Harvey whom they selected 8th overall 2 years ago. He is guaranteed $17 million and has 3 years left on his rookie contract.
With John Henderson set to make $5 million in 2010, the Jaguars had entirely too much money invested in a young unproven line. To keep Henderson would only force their young talent to watch from the sidelines. Thats a good plan for young quarterbacks – a bad plan for young lineman.
The Jaguars weren’t getting any quarterback pressure out of Henderson (about 3 sacks per season over the last 5 years) so at 31, he simply wasn’t a part of their future.
It’s rumored that Jacksonville tried to get picks for him on draft day once they had gone ‘all-in’ on tackles, but prying away picks from teams on draft day can be difficult. Decisions to trade for an expiring $5 million contract are generally not made in a draft room particularly if it had not previously been discussed.
Of the teams Jacksonville reportedly called, its unlikely any of them knew if Henderson would be interested in their city and scheme in time to be comfortable making the expensive trade.
With the potential that often lies in rounds 4-5 combined with the near league minimum salaries they receive, it makes perfect sense why no one pulled the trigger on Henderson during those rounds.
After the 5th round passed, Jacksonville may have remained on the fence and been unwilling to part with him for a 6 or 7 round pick, but ultimately their hands were tied.
On April 26, just 2 days after the final round of the draft, the Jacksonville Jaguars cut John Henderson.
In the coming days nearly every team was rumored to take a look at Henderson. Most were just that – rumors, but ‘Big John’ realistically had his choice of teams depending on the money he was willing to take.
As for his character, Henderson was reportedly willing to play any scheme his new suitor wanted. That’s a far cry from another University of Tennessee DT making nearly $40 million guaranteed on a resume very similar to Henderson.
Both Albert Haynesworth and John Henderson came into the league in 2002. Since then, Henderson has 29 sacks to Haynesworth’s 28. Albert’s big contract came the year after he posted his career high in sacks – 8.5.
While its true Haynesworth has played in 22 fewer games because of injuries and suspensions, what good is a player on the sidelines on Sunday afternoons? John Henderson has missed 4 games in 8 seasons.
The Raiders aren’t in need of pass rushers, but last season they were arguably the worst in the league at stopping the run. John Henderson can stop the run. And with Jamarcus Russell spending most of his time in the court room and off the football field, the Raiders offense may actually give their defense a few moments to rest between each series.
It’s hard so say where, when and how John Henderson will be used this year, but it should be something to look forward to. In terms of his age, 31 is not too old to be effect at DT – particularly one whos responsibility is to hold the line rather chase the quarterback.
Theres reason for optimism in Oakland this year and Henderson could be a big part of this team slapping around some teams in the AFC West.