Last year – his ninth in the NFL, all of them with the Vikes – the team's starting middle linebacker had the kind of year we've come to expect from E.J Henderson. He had 110 tackles, picked up two sacks and forced three fumbles. Despite swelling in the leg he broke horrifically against Arizona in 2009, he didn't miss a game and was his usual ferocious self on the field.
So even though Henderson may have missed a few more tackles than we were used to seeing and maybe he was beat more in pass coverage than during his 2007-2009 peak, it was impossible to argue that Henderson couldn't still function as – at worst – a solid two-down Mike linebacker for someone in the NFL.
Yet May has arrived and Henderson is still unemployed.
To me, that just seems terribly unfair for a player who has been one of the great linebackers in Vikings history and who has sacrificed his body for our entertainment for nearly a decade. Yes, Henderson was well-compensated for his sacrifice, but I wonder what it feels like to still be very good at your craft and yet no one will hire you? How would any of us feel if, at 32 years of age (Henderson turned 32 in March) we were told our career was over?
Except I don't think Henderson's career is quite over. Thirty-two NFL teams decided they had no need for his services when free agency kicked off in March. But training camp is still almost three months away. No one is hitting anybody yet. Everybody is relatively healthy.
My bet is that the first team that loses it's starting middle linebacker for the year during training or preseason will quickly be giving Henderson's agent a call.
Even a return to the Vikings isn't completely out of the picture. The team is rebuilding and has decided it's going to give fourth-year linebacker Jasper Brinkley the job. But not everyone is convinced Brinkley is up for the task. As ESPN 1500's Judd Zulgad tweeted last week in a response to a tweet to him:
"Here's your issue. No guarantee Brinkley is the MLB for a Tampa 2 defense. Fingers crossed by team on this."I hope Brinkley works out for the Vikings. But if he doesn't, or if he gets seriously injured again, the Vikings don't have a lot of depth or starting options waiting in the wings. Henderson knows the defense, and he knows the playbook. As long as he's keeping himself in shape, he could quickly go from the street to the Vikings starting Mike linebacker pretty quickly – if the Vikings feel they finally need him