Drew Henson's already circuitous professional career is about to take another turn.
In an effort to accelerate the learning curve for Henson, and to provide him "live" action that might permit the young quarterback to at least challenge for the No. 2 spot on the depth chart, the Dallas Cowboys are sending the former University of Michigan standout to the NFL Europe League this spring.
Henson will report next month to the NFLEL's training camp in Tampa. The season for the NFL-subsidized springtime league begins in mid-March. It has not been determined yet for which team Henson will play.
The possibility of playing in Europe, where he will be able to get the snaps that he has not amassed in his first two NFL seasons, was broached to Henson by coach Bill Parcells late in the regular season. Henson responded well to the suggestion and has embraced the opportunity to hone his skills after not playing at all in a regular season game in 2005. He regards the stint abroad as a chance to solidify his vocation, not a European vacation.
There remains much uncertainty, and considerable debate even within the Dallas organization, about Henson's viability as an NFL quarterback. In '05, he dropped to No. 3 on the Dallas depth chart, behind starter Drew Bledsoe and former undrafted free agent Tony Romo. He mostly ran the "scout" team in practices and was the "emergency" No. 3 quarterback on game days.
But owner Jerry Jones still feels Henson, who turns 26 next month, has a future in the NFL, perhaps even as a starter. "What he needs to do," Jones said, "is play. And this will give him that chance."
Henson certainly has prototype size (6-feet-4, 233) and a strong enough arm, but at this point in his career, he needs to display progress or risk the chance of striking out in yet another athletic endeavor.
Despite projections that he might be the top quarterback prospect in the draft, Henson bypassed his final season of eligibility at Michigan to sign a lucrative baseball contract with the New York Yankees. But after three mediocre seasons, the Yankees ceased to see Henson as their third baseman of the future, and Henson forfeited $12 million remaining on his baseball deal to return to the gridiron.
He was chosen by the Houston Texans in the sixth round of the 2003 draft and then dealt to the Cowboys in 2004 for a third-round choice in the 2005 lottery. He signed an eight-year contract that guaranteed him $3.5 million and which can be voided after only four seasons if Henson reaches certain predetermined performance or playing time levels.
Henson played in seven games in 2004 and completed 10 of 18 passes for 78 yards, with one touchdown pass and one interception. His lone NFL start came in the Thanksgiving Day game in 2004, but Parcells replaced him at halftime.
Len Pasquarelli is a senior NFL writer for ESPN.com. To check out Len's chat archive, click here.