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Kirwan: What's Next For Drew Henson?


Back in April 2003, it seemed like a pretty shrewd move by Charley Casserly and the Houston Texans to draft Drew Henson with a sixth-round pick. They had more draft picks than they needed for the 2003 season and Charley always has an eye on upgraded picks or multiple picks in years to come. The Henson selection made sense then and it may make sense today if he can get some team to trade for him before April 24. Otherwise, Henson re-enters the draft and the Texans wasted a sixth rounder.

Personally, I would have done it myself because of the circumstances Houston was in. But with the workout in the books, it's not as important to find out how the workout went as to exactly how a team might get the Henson deal done. Remember, the workout was in shorts and he's a talented, well-prepared athlete. You still can't tell if he can do it in pads with pressure in his face. As one scout who went to the workout said to me, "I can't tell who's going to win the U.S. Open by watching them on the driving range, and if anyone can, I'd like to meet them."

So how does a deal get done with the Texans if some team wants to pull the trigger on a trade? Let's just say for argument sake that the Texans and another club agree on the draft compensation for the trade -- that does not mean a deal can get done.

The Texans have to sign Henson in order to trade him. What complicates that issue is Henson must fit under the Houston rookie pool from last year, and Henson may not like how little space the Texans have to construct a deal. Remember, Houston used most of their rookie pool money to sign all their other draft picks. What was left over was about the value of a sixth-round pick, which by no means will excite Henson to sign. If his workout is so good that someone wants to trade for him now, you could assume he will be drafted higher than the sixth round this year. So why would Henson agree to sixth-round money which could look like $1 million over three years? This guy surrendered over $10 million of his baseball bonus!

So what are the choices? The Texans and the new team could consider trying to persuade him to sign a one-year deal and convince Henson they'll give him a big deal a year from now. Rookie deals can't be torn up for a year, so forget the idea of getting him for a sixth-round price and tearing it up after he gets to his new team. Believe me there will be a lot of watchful eyes on what happens with Henson's contract if he is traded.

The next idea is to load up the contract with incentives, but that will be a problem too. For a rookie drafted in the sixth round, many incentives are likely to be earned to some degree. For example, let's say you tried to put $2 million in the deal if he played 25 percent of the plays. Well, that figure counts in the salary cap and the rookie pool which Houston doesn't have the space to sign and trade. The next idea I hear about is tying the incentives to wins. That means if a club says the incentive for playtime is tied to winning one more game than the previous year, they are trying to avoid it as a cap charge. If you're talking about a team like Green Bay who won 10 games last year, then Henson realizes he only earns this money if he plays 25 percent of the plays and the team wins 11 games. The probability of that happening are slim. So, incentives don't really appear like a viable way to go.

At the end of this workout, Henson may have to weigh the risk of being drafted by a bad team for more money versus a great team now for a lot less money. I'm curious to see which way he's leaning.

Of course the better he works out, the more "buzz" it creates and maybe a good team jumps up and takes him late in the first round or early second. I'm sure that's the main motivation behind this workout as it relates to his representation group. It's a good strategy. If he worked extremely well, teams adjust up as to where they'll take him. If he only worked average, maybe a good team steps up now. He threw about 75 passes to four different receivers and looked sharp according to one personnel man who has little interest in Henson right now but also knows it's his responsibility to know every draft-eligible player.

No matter how many times Henson works out for teams, the big questions about him still exist. But in many ways those questions exist for other intriguing players in this year's draft. At some point if a team has a "good feel" for Henson, they will take him. I find it ironic that right now he has a sixth-round label on him, which is right where his former teammate, Tom Brady, was drafted. You know the Patriots have four picks in the top 65, and they might consider taking Henson and developing him. He doesn't have to play right away because he gives the Patriots an insurance policy against Brady's salary demands in the future. He could become a very tradable player in two years like Mark Brunell was coming out of Green Bay. Who knows where he lands up this spring? But the Patriots might just demonstrate another way a team could be looking at Mr. Henson.

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