Former Jets starting linebacker Erin Henderson is on the verge of suing the team for “doing everything wrong” in distancing him from the team, Henderson’s lawyer argues.
Henderson plans to file the lawsuit on Friday for wrongful termination and disability discrimination, attorney Lawrence Lavigne told ESPN on Tuesday, if he cannot agree to a private settlement with the Jets. The 31-year-old — who signed a two-year, $3.1 million contract with the Jets in 2016 after one season in New York — is seeking $3.3 million in the form of his unpaid 2016 salary and non-guaranteed 2017 salary.
The Jets placed Henderson on the reserve-non-football injury/illness list in October 2016, seven months after he had inked his new deal, for reasons that were unknown at the time.
Lavigne, who said he sent Jets chairman and CEO Christopher Johnson a letter notifying him of Henderson’s intentions on Sept. 14 and has yet to hear back, argues the Jets broke a New Jersey law by neglecting to tell Henderson why they were pushing him away. After five games, Henderson did not play again last season and is currently a free agent.
Henderson filed a grievance with the NFLPA in June over the Jets’ handling of his departure. Though the Jets argued Henderson was “not fit” to play at the time, they did not offer specifics beyond that and thus spurned rumors that Henderson had suffered an alcoholic relapse, according to the lawsuit. Henderson had two DUI arrests while with the Vikings and was released from the team in 2014.
“Our argument is they did everything wrong, so they either destroyed a career by remaining silent or they wrongfully terminated him,” Lavigne said.
Lavigne said the Jets placed Henderson on the injury list 10 days after he overslept and arrived late for a meeting. When Henderson explained why he was late to a Jets official — the side effects from a medication the team had prescribed him for a bipolar disorder caused him to oversleep — the team responded by removing him from the active roster and cutting off his medication, argued Henderson’s agent, Jim Chapman.
“Erin feels like the Jets never had his back,” Chapman told ESPN. “This has been devastating to him.”
Henderson played in all 16 games for the Jets in 2015, recording 36 tackles, after a six-year career with the Vikings. Minnesota signed him as an undrafted free agent out of Maryland in 2008.