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BILLS NEED TO MAKE MOVE WITH HENRY

Look, I understand what Tom Donahoe is doing with Travis Henry. The Bills' general manager has an asset to trade, and he wants equal value in return. He wants his trading partners to treat Henry like an elite running back, capable of starting and performing at a high level for the next several seasons.

Donahoe is willing to wait. He will not budge until someone comes along with what he deems a fair offer. And during Monday's draft luncheon at One Bills Drive, Donahoe made it clear that dealing Henry straight-up for Arizona tackle L.J. Shelton is not his idea of equal value.

"We will decide what's a fair offer," Donahoe said. "Not Travis and not his agent. We will listen. We will see what happens over the next couple of weeks. If it happens, great. If not, Travis has a contract to play for the Buffalo Bills."

Maybe Donahoe will wait until Arizona misses out on the elite backs at next weekend's draft, then ask the Cardinals to sweeten the offer by swapping second-round picks. Arizona has the 44th selection, Buffalo the 55th. Perhaps the Bills simply aren't sold on Shelton, an average player who makes $3 million a year.

Donahoe could have other options. If there's one thing we've learned, it's never to assume anything about the man. Come draft day, he might have another big surprise in store.

But he'd better do something with Henry before training camp, and preferably sooner. The notion that Henry could still be a Bill next season is ludicrous. It would be bad for everyone involved, a needless distraction for a team trying to break in a new quarterback.

Waiting for the right deal is fine, but Donahoe might be overestimating his hand. Yes, Henry ran for more than 1,300 yards in consecutive seasons. He is capable of being a starter again in the NFL. He's still young and will run through the wall for any team that acquires him.

He isn't a starter now, though, and Donahoe can't expect other teams to treat him like one. If Henry were an elite back, he'd be out of Buffalo by now. Someone would have made the Bills an offer they couldn't refuse. The NFL is treating Henry for what he is -- a diminished asset.

The Bills can argue all they like, but they're the ones responsible. They're the ones who drafted an injured college star (Willis McGahee) when they had a proven running back. They're the ones who took Henry's job away last season and handed it to McGahee -- after Henry had missed one full game because of injury.

Donahoe created this problem for himself. He knew from the moment he drafted McGahee that he'd eventually have to deal Henry. Last summer, he could have traded Henry from a position of strength. He waited, and now he has to deal Henry from a weakened position.

The president/GM seems reluctant to accept that fact. Donahoe acts as if he's holding two aces, when he's sitting with a pair of threes. Running backs are an abundant commodity in today's NFL. Rookies step in and play all the time. The market for Henry is minimal.

Henry is going into his fifth season. League executives see him as a talented back but one with a lot of baggage. He takes a pounding. He has a history of fumbling and getting injured. He does not always exercise the best judgment. He would be a free agent today if he hadn't foolishly asked the Bills to extend his contract when he was desperate for money.

That baggage was one of the reasons the Bills went for McGahee in the first place, because they worried about Henry as a long-term investment. Donahoe shouldn't be surprised if other NFL teams have the same concerns, two years later.

When Henry added a year to his deal, it was a gift to the Bills. It's time to trade it in. Donahoe might not get his idea of fair value. But at some point, the larger concern is what's fair to his team.
e-mail: jsullivan@buffnews.com