Henson property of Texans -- but available

Originally Published: February 2, 2004
By Len Pasquarelli | ESPN.com

Drew Henson's flirtation with a professional baseball career has officially ended, allowing the former University of Michigan quarterback to turn his attention to playing in the NFL.

Henson and the Yankees have reached a resolution that frees him from the final three seasons of the six-year, $17 million contract he signed with New York in 2001, sources close to Henson confirmed for ESPN.com on Monday. Henson will receive none of the $12 million he had been contractually guaranteed between this season and 2006, and the Yankees will not seek any of the money already paid to him.

Sign-and-trade seems unlikely
Randy Mueller The Texans can't trade Drew Henson unless he signs a contract, because you can't trade a player's rights in the NFL. And he'd have to be signed out of last year's rookie pool money (money allotted to sign all draft picks and undrafted free agents). It's unlikely Houston has more than a nominal amount of that pool left, but only the team and the league office would know for sure. No other team has money to speak of from last year's allocation, either.

So to be traded, Henson would have to sign a contract with the Texans for little or no money. They would then trade him to another team, which couldn't re-sign him to a new, restructured deal until after the 2004 season, which he would have to play earning the rookie minimum. Where is the motivation for Henson to do this? Sure, maybe he can somewhat control which team the Texans trade with, but is that worth the millions he'd sacrifice?

If he instead remains unsigned and goes back into the draft this spring, he'll in all likelihood be drafted in the mid- to late-first round. He will then sign a contract commensurate with that draft position and go to camp to prepare for the '04 season.

Maybe I'm messed up, but I don't see why he'd ever agree to sign with Houston and be traded.

My take is that all this talk is coming from the Texans, who thought they were smart in drafting him. I'm not sure how smart they really were, because this timeline has always been a possibility. For a sixth-round pick, you could say they had no risk and a potentially big reward if Henson had decided to make this move last summer. But the reality is that Henson holds all the cards in this deal, so it really doesn't matter what the Texans are saying.

At this late date, Henson is better off doing nothing.

-- Randy Mueller

It essentially was a clean, quick divorce with no alimony involved. The settlement of the six-year, $17 million deal he signed in 2001 was negotiated by Henson's representatives from the marketing and representative giant IMG.

"I am pleased to announce that I will be pursuing a career with the NFL," Henson said in a statement released Tuesday. "I have truly enjoyed playing professional baseball, but after a great deal of thought and discussions with the people closest to me, I have decided to make football my career."

Henson has been working out for several weeks at IMG's facility in Bradenton, Fla., polishing his football skills under the guidance of longtime NFL quarterbacks coach Larry Kennan.

"He's the real deal," Kennan told ESPN.com last week. "His physical abilities, the kind of presence he demonstrates on the field, all translates into a first-round package."

An interested observer to all of this is Houston Texans general manager Charlie Casserly, who made the clever gambit of selecting Henson in the sixth round of last year's draft. The Texans secured Henson's football rights, Casserly reiterated last week, with the intent of dangling him as trade bait this spring.

"It's going to be open to every team in the NFL," Casserly told AP on Monday. "Then, after that, we will find out what teams are interested and negotiate a trade."

Casserly said a trade could be made no earlier than March 4 and no later than April 24, when the NFL draft starts.

Among the franchises that might be interested in acquiring Henson, who almost certainly would have been a first-round draft choice had he stayed at Michigan and played his final two seasons with the Wolverines, are Buffalo, Green Bay, Kansas City, Miami and Pittsburgh.

The Texans will allow teams interested in pursuing Henson to attend a workout Feb. 12, according to AP. It is believed that the Texans will seek a second-round draft choice in any Henson trade.

"[The workout is] going to be open to every team in the NFL," Casserly told AP. "Then, after that, we will find out what teams are interested and negotiate a trade."

Henson and the Yankees must still reach a termination agreement, a baseball official told AP. Henson would then be put on waivers.

Some NFL scouts believe that, even with his football hiatus, Henson might be no worse than the No. 3 quarterback prospect in April's draft, behind Eli Manning of Mississippi and Ben Roethlisberger of Miami of Ohio.

If the Texans do not sign Henson by noon the day before the draft, he will go back into the player pool, where he can be chosen by another team. The chief benefit in such a maneuver would be that Henson would receive a much more lucrative contract than if he signs a deal with Houston, which is limited by rookie pool rules in what it can pay him.

But the upside to signing with the Texans this spring, as opposed to going back into 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 begins his NFL career.

"This is how [a team] beats the system," Casserly told ESPN.com. "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."

With the Yankees shy at third base because of Aaron Boone's potential season-ending knee injury, there was some speculation that Henson might be an option. But Henson has struggled in the minors, hitting only .234 last season, his second year at Triple-A Columbus, and was not in the Yankees' major league plans in 2004.

Len Pasquarelli is a senior NFL writer for ESPN.com. Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

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