After becoming the Cincinnati Bengals’ most high-prized free-agent acquisition since the signing period was introduced back in 1993, Trey Hendrickson’s four-year, $60M deal has replicated highway robbery with just a trio of games left in the regular season. A former third-rounder of the New Orleans Saints out of Florida Atlantic not even a handful of seasons ago, you probably aren’t too familiar with his game.
Allow me to paint the picture.
A talent that looks straight out of an NFL Films documentary from the ’60s, Hendrickson won’t blow you away with his herculean frame or eye-popping three-cone time, but his power, length, and constantly hot V-12 engine that fuels his overpowering skill set has progressed the Bengals’ edge threat into one of the league’s premier pass rushers. With the fifth-most sacks in the NFL since he arrived on the scene in 2017, Hendrickson’s consistency has been a trait to marvel at considering the way in which he wins as a 5-tech down lineman.
Comparing his pass rush toolkit to the likes of T.J. Watt, Myles Garrett, or Nick Bosa wouldn’t be fair, as each is an elite, high-level athlete who converts speed to power unlike any defenders in football. Hendrickson is just vastly different. While it’s not to discredit Hendrickson as an athlete, his game is eerily similar to that of Ryan Kerrigan; a stoutly built, physically-imposing presence who wins technically on every single rep with every part of his being.
A longtime staple off the edge in Washington before departing for Philadelphia this past offseason, Kerrigan, a four-time Pro Bowler, is nearly a mirror image of Hendrickson if you were to align the two on film. At 270 pounds, while he possesses the necessary sand in his pants to slide inside to 3-tech, Hendrickson is a bull in a china shop who can jump to the outside when faced with a sturdy inside leg, or jump to the inside if tackles over-set, making it a tall task to leave him off the sack sheet for a full 60 minutes. Where he’s most unique is in his upper half, however, where his hands pack a lethal punch but tout the necessary quickness and technical prowess to work through longer-limbed offensive linemen who look to land the first jab on pass-sets.
"I'm obsessed with quarterbacks," Hendrickson said. "I don't play for the media hype or the camaraderie… If I'm not sacking them, they're my water break. It's a lifestyle.”
The long sought after 5-tech within the Bengals front after years of watching Geno Atkins dominate within the interior, Hendrickson has put to bed the narrative that his production in New Orleans was a byproduct of surrounding athletes in Cam Jordan, David Onyemata, and other headlining names within the Saints’ front four. Currently just two games away from matching Javon Kearse’s record for the most consecutive games to record a sack (12), Hendrickson has been a near one-man show off of Cincinnati's edge. Whether teams have opted to double him with a guard shading the outside or chipping him with a tight end or running back, the scheme versatility in which Hendrickson provides for defensive coordinator Lou Anarumo has found him in the backfield via tackle-end stunts, inside/outside games, etc., ultimately forcing opposing coordinators to slide protections to his side.
Initially looked upon as a poor man's Carl Lawson when the longtime Bengal departed for the New York Jets, Hendrickson has continued to prove himself as one of the league’s most dominant edge threats. While his skill set is the farthest thing from sexy, and his no-glove, barebone limited swagger often causes viewers to turn heads, Hendrickson, just 27 years old, has progressed into one of the premier sack artists the game has to offer.