GM awaits resolution on Yankees contract
HOUSTON -- Aaron Boone's potentially season-ending knee injury will not extend the Yankees career of Drew Henson. Not if Houston Texans general manager Charley Casserly can help it.
Casserly said Tuesday that he remains committed to signing Henson and then trading the former Michigan quarterback. Houston holds the NFL rights to Henson, taken in the sixth round of last year's draft, until April.
"For now, though, everything is between Drew and the Yankees," Casserly said. "There isn't a lot we can do until that situation is resolved."
Boone suffered a possible tear to the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee playing basketball on Jan. 17. New York's starting third baseman might miss the 2004 season and possibly be forced to forfeit all or most of his $5.75 million salary, which he agreed to last month. Boone's contract contained language saying it would become nonguaranteed if he played basketball.
There was some speculation that Henson might be an option to fill the Yankees' void at third base, but Henson -- who signed a six-year, $17 million contract with the Yankees in 2001 -- has struggled in the minor leagues. Last season, his second at Triple-A Columbus, he hit just .234.
Henson's representatives at IMG, the sports marketing and representation giant, remain in discussions with Yankees officials about settling the remaining three years of the contract. Henson has a guaranteed $12 million coming to him, with base salaries of $2.2 million in 2004, of $3.8 million in '05 and $6 million in '06.
While his agents and the Yankees attempt to strike a settlement that addresses issues that both sides have, Henson has been working out and reshaping his football skills at IMG's facility in Bradenton, Fla., with former NFL quarterbacks coach Larry Kennan.
Of course, an interested observer to all of this is Casserly, who made the clever gambit of drafting Henson and securing his NFL rights with the sole intent of dangling the highly regarded quarterback as trade bait this spring.
Casserly will not address the issue but, NFL sources suggest, there are enough potential suitors. Among the franchises that might be interested in acquiring Henson, who almost certainly would have been a first-round draft choice if he had stayed at Michigan for his final two seasons of eligibility, are Buffalo, Green Bay, Kansas City, Miami and Pittsburgh.
Some league scouts believe that, even with his football hiatus, Henson might be no worse than the No. 3 quarterback prospect in this year's draft, behind Eli Manning of Mississippi and Ben Roethlisberger of Miami of Ohio.
If the Texans don't sign Henson before the April draft, he will go back into the player pool and then can be selected by another team. The primary benefit in such a maneuver would be that Henson would earn a much more lucrative contract than if he signs with Houston, which is limited by rookie pool rules in what it can pay.
But the upside to signing with the Texans this spring, as opposed to re-entering the draft, is that Henson could essentially choose the team to which Houston trades him. A trip back to the draft could be risky because Henson would have no control over where he were to begin his NFL career.
"This is how [a team] beats the system," Casserly said, referring to a Henson trade. "How else are you going to get a young quarterback of this caliber? You can say you're going to take him in the draft but there are no guarantees. With a trade, he's yours, and you don't have to worry about somebody jumping ahead of you and grabbing him."
Len Pasquarelli is a senior NFL writer for ESPN.com.