On New Year's Day, just moments after the Vikings' season ended with a loss to Chicago, linebacker Erin Henderson had few doubts that he'd back wearing purple in 2012. His first year as a starter had been equal parts encouraging and eye-opening. And through a season in which he recorded 70 tackles, Henderson fought through his inconsistency and felt a growing comfort with what was being asked of him.
Asked about his future with the Vikings, Henderson made his desire to stay clear.
"I'm excited for what 2012 will bring," he said. "I hope with all my heart I will be here. I've created a bond with the guys in this locker room and the people upstairs in the organization. And what we have building here, I want to be a part of."
It took until Friday for the Vikings to reunite with Henderson. Ten days after the 25-year-old linebacker hit the open market as a free agent, the Vikings reeled him back in on a one-year deal worth $2 million.
General Manager Rick Spielman consistently asserted he wanted Henderson back. Yet the delay in getting a new deal done was purely business-based. Asked directly last week about the organization's approach, Spielman said Henderson was on his priority list but had to understand the process.
"Sometimes," Spielman said, "they have to go out in the market to establish what their value is."
Henderson seemed agitated in those early stages of negotiation. On March 16, he took to Twitter to vent.
"In a nutshell," he wrote, "market value and franchise value aren't always going to match. If someone can play 3 positions 4 u, their value has to go up."
And later: "I'd rather be broke and watch my son grow up than put my well being on the line for money that doesn't make sense."
Still this became a simple NFL economics lesson with linebacker seeming to be the one position with more supply than demand in free agency this year.
In the end, Friday's one-year pact between Henderson and the Vikings now presents an interesting scenario. As far as the Vikings are concerned, 2012 might be something of a "prove it" year with Henderson asked to deliver on-field results that justify his confidence that he is one of the better young linebackers in the league.
But by settling for a short-term deal, the Vikings also put themselves at risk of losing Henderson to free agency next year. In the best-case scenario for the promising linebacker, he has a standout season and then has a rush of interested teams racing to give him a big payday next March.
It's worth noting that Henderson's agent, Brian Mackler, negotiated a similar one-year contract for defensive end Mark Anderson with the Patriots last year. Anderson then delivered 10 sacks in 2011 for New England and last week agreed to a four-year deal with Buffalo worth $27.5 million.
As for Henderson, he hopes to build on his first year as a starter with lessons learned in 2011.
"Early in the season, I felt like I was trying too hard to make every play," he said. "I felt like I was back in high school or back in college again and I had to make every play and be in on every tackle. But it's not really like that at this level. Everybody has a job and a responsibility. So you just need to take care of yours and make the plays that come to you."Note
The Vikings also re-signed receiver Devin Aromashodu to a one-year contract. Aromashodu, 27, showed promise as a downfield threat and was listed as the starter in six games after being signed as a free agent before last season. He had a career-high 26 receptions for 468 yards and one touchdown.