IRVING -- The Cowboys have taken it upon themselves to re-define stupid money over the years - anyone know where Drew Henson and Chad Hutchinson are counting their cash these days? Remember when they made Mike Vanderjagt the highest paid kicker in NFL history only to watch him steal their money amid his freefall into oblivion?
Then there was the Great Spree in 2005 when the Cowboys signed the following free agents:
QB Drew Bledsoe: Three years, $14 million.
NT Jason Ferguson: Five years, $21.5 million.
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G Marco Rivera: Five years, $20 million.
DB Anthony Henry: Five years, $25 million.
So when among this gluttonous intake of talent did the Cowboys “get” their money’s worth? Bledsoe played 22 games before he was benched. An ankle injury slowed Ferguson in his first season; he was good in Year 2, and he was out for the season after Week 1 last season. Now he’s with the Dolphins. Rivera suffered a back injury before he even played a down for the Cowboys and he was a shadow of his former self until a neck injury forced him to retire in June of 2007.
That leaves us with Henry, who is now in his fourth season with the Cowboys. Although the Cowboys have all but either drafted or signed his replacement, it’s time this guy receives the credit he deserves as being one of the best, and most versatile, players in the secondary. Adding Pacman Jones or Mike Jenkins in the offseason were nice, but having Henry healthy may be the biggest addition to the secondary.
“If he stays well, last year he started out great and was leading the league in interceptions. This year, he’s trying to lead the league in sacks,” Cowboys coach Wade Phillips said.
When Henry suffered a leg injury last season in September, he was leading the league in interceptions with four. After his performance last week in Green Bay, Henry is the rare corner who has two sacks.
“He’s a good player,” Phillips said. “I think he will get recognized. He missed a lot of the season last year.”
When Henry is right, he may even be better than Newman. But he can’t stay healthy -- injuries forced him to miss four games in 2005. When he played all 16 games in 2006, it was no secret a knee kept him from being the same player the Cowboys needed. He missed a pair of games in 2007, but when he returned he wasn’t the same.
Henry is healthy this season … for the time being. And with his good health, the Cowboys' secondary is deeper and more versatile than it has been in years. At 6-feet-1, 207 pounds, Henry is one of the bigger corners in the league. And unlike some defensive backs who subscribe to “Deion Sanders' Avoiding Tackles Monthly”, Henry has no such aversion to contact.
He’s big enough to blitz off the corner and play the run, as well as go body-for-body against tall receivers such as Plaxico Burress (assuming he’s not suspended). Henry is just fast enough to play man-to-man against fast receivers. And he’s versatile, and willing, to play safety … just in case a certain someone is moved elsewhere.
The question now is, will it last? How much longer until Henry feels an ouch here or a pull there?
It’s not as if a Henry means the Cowboys secondary implodes. But he gives them an element that no other player back there does. With Henry in the secondary, the Cowboys can move around Newman, Jenkins, Jones and even rookie Orlando Scandrick and do things they have never been able to do schematically.
He does everything well, even if he doesn’t receive all the glory of some of his teammates.
While he may not have the Pro Bowl appearances of Roy Williams, Ken Hamlin or Terence Newman, or the “big-time” potential of a Jenkins or a Jones, without Henry the Cowboys secondary isn’t nearly as good as it is today.
So call it one of the few times when the Cowboys went out and over-paid for someone they actually received their money’s worth.