Yesterday, I rejected the very idea the Atlanta Falcons might sign former Jacksonville Jaguar defensive tackle John Henderson. I reasoned that he's on the wrong side of 30—31, to be exact—and doesn't fit the mold of penetrating tackles that have gotten heavy minutes in the team's rotation there over the last year.
But after hearing this morning that Big John is expected to decide his destination today and hearing that the Falcons were at least initial suitors for his services, I thought I'd examine why they might have real interest in the hulking defender.
John Henderson was drafted by the Jaguars in the first round of the 2002 NFL Draft, which turned out to be a brilliant move almost from day one. Big John played in no less than 14 games in each season of his career from that point out, piling up 423 tackles and proving to be a brilliant asset against the run paired with Marcus Stroud. He wasn't a guy who traditionally got a lot of sacks, but he's managed 29 of 'em in eight seasons, and he had enough wherewithal to deflect or defend 38 passes.
If you're more into the accolades end of things, he also made the Pro Bowl twice. If you like more advanced statistics, Football Outsiders says Henderson was good for an 82% overall stop rate, 90% against the pass and 79% against the run in 2009, the season that got him released by the Jaguars. We'd chiefly be using him against the run, and those numbers are solid but not stellar.
So you have to know what you're getting here, if you're the Falcons. You're getting a 31 year-old defensive tackle who no longer is the dominant force he was earlier in his career, when he was probably one of the 10-15 best tackles in the game.
Instead, you're getting a guy with a mildly declining skill set who would likely knock Thomas Johnson (82% stop rate against the run in limited opportunities) or Trey Lewis (a putrid 40% stop rate) further down the depth chart. I think at this point that Lewis should be replaced by somebody, but given that he'll likely be commanding a reasonably expensive multi-year-deal, I'm not sure Henderson's that guy. This is a defensive line that depends on penetration and disruption, and while he amassed three sacks last season, I'm not sold that he's a player who can consistently provide that at this stage of his career.
Of course, he'll announce he's signing with another team within an hour of this post going up, so this whole thing will probably be moot. I just thought it might be worth taking a closer look.