<
>

Time approaching for Jets to make decision on mystery linebacker

Erin Henderson was a starting inside linebacker for the first six games last season and then ... pffft!

He was gone.

Henderson, who battled alcohol problems earlier in his career, was placed on the New York Jets' non-football injury list for the remainder of the season with no explanation from the team. Because he signed a two-year, $4 million contract last offseason, his rights still belong to the Jets. A decision is looming -- two decisions, actually.

The Jets must decide by Wednesday whether to exercise their option for 2017. There's no financial commitment with this decision; that doesn't occur until March 9. That is the first day of the league year, when he's due a $250,000 roster bonus.

If not by Wednesday, the Jets will determine his fate by March 9. He's counting $2.75 million on the salary cap, including a non-guaranteed base salary of $2.25 million.

The Jets are shy on depth at inside linebacker, where the current starters are David Harris and Darron Lee, but Henderson's cap number is too high for a backup. He turns 31 in July, and they're probably looking to get younger. Plus, there's the off-the-field baggage. Clearly, Henderson was dealing with a personal issue -- it wasn't injury-related, the team has said -- and only the Jets know whether he can be trusted.

Henderson hasn't returned multiple calls and messages seeking comment. There was no activity on his Twitter account from last October, around the time he left the team, until January. In January, he responded to a follower's question about what happened, saying, "Long story. I'll tell you guys about 1 day. But all is well on my end."

The Jets gave Henderson a shot in 2015, signing him to a minimum deal after he sat out the entire 2014 season following his release from the Vikings. Minnesota gave up on him after two DUI arrests, which resulted in a four-game league suspension. The Jets liked what they saw and signed him again.

Settling into a starting position last preseason, Henderson emerged as a vocal leader on defense. Then, suddenly, he was gone, placed on the nebulous NFI list.

General manager Mike Maccagnan said during the season that Henderson was "taking some time right now to deal with a few things, but we’ll address that at the end of the season and where we decide to go with that."

That time is now.