Titans release Henry instead of paying $8.3M bonus

Unwilling to pay tailback Travis Henry an $8.3 million roster bonus that he would have been due on Monday, the Tennessee Titans on Saturday released the six-year veteran, making him an unrestricted free agent and able to immediately sign with another team.

ESPN.com has learned that Henry was en route to Denver on Saturday evening to meet with Broncos officials. It is believed that Henry is now the top choice of the Broncos as they seek to upgrade at the tailback position.

Agent Hadley Engelhard has also had discussions with officials from Green Bay, Oakland and Houston about his client.

The Titans had apprised Henry and Engelhard during the week that they would not pay the $8.3 million roster bonus. The two sides had been negotiating for weeks to rework Henry's contract but were unable to reach an agreement that would have accommodated the needs of all parties.

The timing of the roster bonus, and of Henry's pending release, were critical.

Technically, if Henry was still on the Tennessee roster Monday morning, the club would have had to pay him the $8.3 million bonus. But the NFL does not have waivers or transactions on Sunday, meaning the Titans had to release Henry before the end of the league's business day, at 4 p.m. (ET), on Saturday to avoid having to pay the exorbitant bonus.

"We have not closed the door on Travis and we are continuing to
talk, but today was a trigger date for a roster bonus that we were
unwilling to pay and they knew that," Titans general manager Mike
Reinfeldt said in a statement.

"A strong run game is an important part of what this team is
about and Travis can be a big part of that. Over the next couple of
days, we will continue to work to get the right deal for both of us

Henry, who resurrected his career in 2006 by winning the starting tailback job early in the season and then posting his third 1,000-yard rushing year, has been prepared for the possibility of his release. Now that he is a free agent, Henry figures to command strong interest in the market, despite the presence of other top tailbacks who are available.

The Broncos, who are actively seeking to address their needs at tailback, could be one of Henry's most ardent suitors, and it is not surprising that Denver officials acted quickly after his release to arrange a visit. Henry's slashing, one-cut running style is well suited to the Denver ground-game design.

Among the tailbacks available as free agents are Jamal Lewis (Baltimore), Dominic Rhodes (Indianapolis), Chris Brown (Tennessee), Ahman Green (Green Bay) and Corey Dillon (New England). The field is further augmented by the fact that several tailbacks, notably Willis McGahee (Buffalo) and Thomas Jones (Chicago), are being offered in trades.

The departure of Henry leaves the Titans with the unproven LenDale White, the 2006 second-round choice from Southern California who played only sparingly as a rookie, on the depth chart.

Henry, 28, carried 270 times for 1,211 yards and seven touchdowns in 2006, and notched six 100-yard outings. The former University of Tennessee standout spent the first four years of his career with the Buffalo Bills before being traded to the Titans in 2005.

In 78 games, including 62 starts, Henry has carried 1,321 times for 5,395 yards and 34 touchdowns. He also has 134 receptions for 886 yards and two scores. In addition to his 1,000-yard season in 2006, Henry ran for over 1,000 yards in two of his four seasons with the Bills.

Senior writer Len Pasquarelli covers the NFL for ESPN.com. The Associated Press contributed to this report.