Raiders can’t lose in Henderson acquisition

The Raiders, looking even thinner than usual on their interior defensive line this week with the “excused” absences of Tommy Kelly and William Joseph, bulked up considerably Friday with the free agent acquisition of defensive tackle John Henderson.

At 6-foot-7, 335 pounds, Henderson’s strength has been as a run defender _ a weak spot for the Raiders in recent years. In theory, Henderson, who reportedly signed a one-year contract according to beat writer Steve Corkran, would join an interior line rotation that would Kelly and Desmond Bryant. Others on the roster include Joseph, Chris Cooper, Ryan Boschetti and undrafted free agent Kellen Heard.

No confirmation as yet from the Raiders.

With the trade for Kamerion Wimbley, the selection of middle linebacker Rolando McClain and former defensive end Trevor Scott at weak side linebacker, Oakland on paper looks considerably more stout.

Assuming Henderson is being paid at or near the veteran minimum, there is no gamble inherent on taking a flyer on a two-time Pro Bowler who was the ninth overall pick of the 2002 draft out of Tennessee, where he was a teammate of Albert Haynesworth. Henderson was a Pro Bowler in 2004 and 2006, but his dedication was openly questioned by coach Jack Del Rio last year (the two later hashed out their differences in a meeting) and the Jaguars put almost no pressure on the quarterback with a league-low 14 sacks.

The Jaguars tried to trade Henderson before the draft, releasing him April 26, not long after taking Cal defensive tackle Tyson Alualu. He was scheduled to make approximately $5 million.

In talking to an NFL personnel-type a few weeks back about Henderson I was told flatly, “he can’t play anymore.”

Still, Henderson is 31 years old and doesn’t need to be a Pro Bowler to help the Raiders. If he can contribute 15 to 20 snaps on running downs and help keep blockers off McClain and Co., he’ll be well worth the signing.

If not, Henderson would be like other veteran acquisitions of recent years such as Donovin Darius and Lorenzo Neal. Worth a look, and gone before the regular season begins.


Jerry McDonald - NFL Writer