Henson ready to start career in NFL

Already ruled out as a future option to play third base for the Yankees, Drew Henson could be released from his contract within days, allowing him to begin planning for a future as an NFL quarterback.

Henson could reach an agreement with the Yankees as soon as Monday night to settle up on the $12 million he's guaranteed over the next three years so he can pursue NFL offers.

Henson, who was a sixth-round choice of the Houston Texans in last year's NFL draft, is due $2.2 million this year from the Yankees, plus $3.8 million for 2005 and $6 million for '06. That's what remains of a six-year $17 million contract he signed in 2001.

When Aaron Boone went down last week, the Yankees pointedly left Henson out of the discussion of replacements for the injured third baseman.

It's then that a light finally went on for Henson, who got the ball rolling toward a settlement, just as the Yankees are said to have hoped he'd do.

Houston, which is happy with David Carr as its quarterback, drafted Henson with the idea of signing and trading him. The Texans hold his rights until the '04 draft in April.

The early list of potential NFL trade suitors includes Buffalo, Dallas, Green Bay, Miami, Pittsburgh and -- a surprise entry -- Kansas City. Henson is planning on an invitation-only football workout for mid-February.

Henson told teams before last year's draft that he was sticking with baseball, but Houston GM Charley Casserly was undeterred.

"If Drew Henson came out when he was scheduled to, he certainly would have been a first-round pick," said Casserly.

Once he's free of his contract with the Yankees, Henson could sign with Houston and then depart in a prearranged trade to another NFL team.

Henson last played football in 2000 at Michigan, completing 61 percent of his passes for 2,146 yards and 18 touchdowns, with four interceptions.

His baseball statistics have been much less impressive. He struck out 122 times last season in Triple-A while batting .234 with 14 homers and 78 RBI, and made 28 errors.

So, this offseason, rather than playing winter baseball or working out at the Yankees' complex in Tampa, Fla., he's been in Bradenton, Fla., working on his football skills at IMG, the headquarters of his agent, Casey Close.