Henderson contemplates free agency

Erin Henderson is a free agent, again. It's a common theme in his career to date and one he would like to change with a long-term deal and the stability that comes with it. How do he and the Vikings feel about his 2012 season?

Erin Henderson has an elaborate plan for a basic goal: He wants to own a house, but not a cookie-cutter starter.

"I've always wanted to own a house, but I want my house to be laid out. I want it to be for a king," Henderson said. "I want my house to be my home, my palace, so I've been very patient with that. Other than that, it's just making sure that generations after me can have something to look forward to."

Henderson, the Vikings linebacker who is scheduled to be an unrestricted free agent, currently rents in Minnesota, an apropos fact considering Henderson's career to date. The Vikings have, in essence, been renting him while waiting to see if he is good enough to make it worth a long-term investment.

For the past two years, Henderson has signed one-year contracts with Minnesota in hopes of proving himself worthy enough of a long-term deal.

Last year, his first as an unrestricted free agent, Henderson signed a one-year deal worth a total of $1.75 million after waiting to see if a better offer would come along in free agency. It never did, and the two sides agreed to the one-year deal more than a week into free agency.

Now, Henderson is left with the same approach as last year – wait and see what the Vikings and other teams think he is worth.

"I just hope that my body of work speaks for myself and is enough," Henderson said. "I just want to take care of my family, man, and do some of the things that I've always dreamed of being able to do. I feel like I'm close to it and I just hope it can get done."

Last year, Henderson was fifth among Vikings defenders with 105 tackles, including 10 for a loss, had three passes defenses and a forced fumble.

"I think for him it's still a growing process," defensive coordinator Alan Williams said. "He still had some inconsistent plays, but the thing about Erin was that I think he made more than he missed, so in the plays that he made he had more big plays. The inconsistent plays just didn't hurt us as much. The whole defense worked out where one guy may be a little inconsistent in one spot and miss a play, but other guys are in the right spot and other guys are running to the football so they don't turn into big plays."

For Henderson, it was a bit of a frustrating season. Two games into it, he suffered a concussion that wasn't diagnosed until three days after it happened. The result was that he was inactive for the next two games, including one of the team's signature wins against the San Francisco 49ers.

"I would say it was a pretty good year for me. I think I improved from last year, made strides. The whole concussion thing and then early in the season kind of made it a little rough for me, but I think it will continue to make me tougher, continue to build me up and continue to prepare me for whatever may come my way in the future," Henderson said. "It's tough to have it play out the way it did, but I think it came back around to me in the end of the year. I had a chance and an opportunity to go back out there and show my worth to the team and made a nice run at the playoffs. We got a taste of what success is and we look forward to having more in the future."

Henderson said he would like to return as a Viking in 2013 and continue to call Minnesota home, but he is one of 10 unrestricted free agents on the team and the Vikings have a lot of decisions to make before the start of free agency on March 12.

Included in that list of free agents is middle linebacker Jasper Brinkley. Will the Vikings be able to keep both of them? Do they want to? The answer to both of those questions likely depends on their asking price.

By the end of the season, Henderson was used alongside Chad Greenway in the nickel defense. That meant Henderson had replaced Brinkley in that role and it could speak to how the Vikings feel about him.

"I would have to say so, especially when I went out and played pretty well when given the opportunity to go out there and play the nickel by myself," Henderson said. "I know it wasn't an easy decision for the coaches to make. It was kind of tough all year long. Jasper is a good football player. We both bring some different things to the table, so you can understand the dilemma they were in, but I was really honored when they told they were going to give me the opportunity to have the spot back for myself. I knew it was a chance that I couldn't let slip past. I had to do the best that I could when given the opportunity out there and try to make the most of it."

Williams cautioned, however, that some of the decision to play Henderson in the nickel defense at the end of the year had to do with who the Vikings were playing and how they approached their three-receivers sets. Still, Williams sees value in Henderson.

"I think Erin's a natural leader," Williams said, "and you want a guy like that on the field to be able to make your calls and get the defense lined up."


Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.



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Last year, his first as an unrestricted free agent, Henderson signed a one-year deal worth a total of $1.75 million after waiting to see if a better offer would come along in free agency. It never did, and the two sides agreed to the one-year deal more than a week into free agency. Now, Henderson is left with the same approach as last year – wait and see what the Vikings and other teams think he is worth. \"I just hope that my body of work speaks for myself and is enough,\" Henderson said. \"I just want to take care of my family, man, and do some of the things that I've always dreamed of being able to do. I feel like I'm close to it and I just hope it can get done.\" Last year, Henderson was fifth among Vikings defenders with 105 tackles, including 10 for a loss, had three passes defenses and a forced fumble. \"I think for him it's still a growing process,\" defensive coordinator Alan Williams said. \"He still had some inconsistent plays, but the thing about Erin was that I think he made more than he missed, so in the plays that he made he had more big plays. The inconsistent plays just didn't hurt us as much. The whole defense worked out where one guy may be a little inconsistent in one spot and miss a play, but other guys are in the right spot and other guys are running to the football so they don't turn into big plays.\" For Henderson, it was a bit of a frustrating season. Two games into it, he suffered a concussion that wasn't diagnosed until three days after it happened. The result was that he was inactive for the next two games, including one of the team's signature wins against the San Francisco 49ers. \"I would say it was a pretty good year for me. I think I improved from last year, made strides. The whole concussion thing and then early in the season kind of made it a little rough for me, but I think it will continue to make me tougher, continue to build me up and continue to prepare me for whatever may come my way in the future,\" Henderson said. \"It's tough to have it play out the way it did, but I think it came back around to me in the end of the year. I had a chance and an opportunity to go back out there and show my worth to the team and made a nice run at the playoffs. 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