Blog provided by Jason Hirschhorn for TonySoftli.com
With each new report, the prospect of Andre Johnson suiting up for Houston in 2014 grows a little fainter. According to NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport, the stalemate between the Texans and their star receiver stems from a disagreement over a workout bonus.
After skipping OTAs and minicamp — and by consequence forfeiting $1 million incentive — Johnson finally elected to return to the team with the hopes of earning the money back through additional workout sessions. However, still fuming over the missed practices, the Texans refused to make an exception for the receiver and denied him the opportunity to re-earn the money.
While the Texans were well within their rights to withhold the workout bonus, it sent a clear message to Johnson, the most decorated player in franchise history, that his days in Houston were numbered. On the hook for a $10 million base salary in 2014 and a $10.5 million base the season after, it seems likely that the Texans release Johnson next offseason. By then, the receiver will be 34 and without leverage in any contract negotiation he enters with a new team. Instead, Johnson is attempting to push his way out of Houston now to give himself the best chance of finding a multi-year home moving forward.
As mentioned by Rapoport in his report on the Johnson/Texans impasse, four teams have expressed interest in acquiring the All-Pro receiver. While no specific franchises were named, here are Johnson’s most likely suitors:
Over the weekend, the ballad of Josh Gordon took another sad turn when the Browns’ receiver was arrested for suspicion of DWI. Already facing a lengthy suspension for violating the NFL’s drug policy, Gordon’s 2014 season is all but officially over. Until further notice, Cleveland must operate under the premise that it will be without Gordon’s services.
Accordingly, the Browns need to find replacements in its receiving corps. After passing on a bevy of highly touted receivers in the draft, Cleveland returns only one established pass catcher for 2014, tight end Jordan Cameron. With rookie quarterback Johnny Manziel expected to start as early as Week 1, adding a veteran presence like Andre Johnson could ease his transition to the NFL.
New York Jets
After staving off extinction a season ago, Jets head coach Rex Ryan may need a vastly improved offensive attack if he hopes to remain in New York past this year. The Jets finished worst in the AFC in passing yards in 2013, and the lack of quality receivers a chief issues. With second-year quarterback Geno Smith expected to start, it’s vital that the team surround him with proven pass catchers.
Thus far, the Jets have signed Broncos wide receiver Eric Decker while also adding tight end Jace Amaro in the second round of the draft. While both can shoulder some of the burden on offense, neither projects as a true top target. Should the team acquire Andre Johnson, Decker moves into a more comfortable role a complementary receiver while Amaro can learn the NFL game under less pressure.
Even before the release of Steve Smith, the Panthers employed one of the worst receiving corps in the league. The offense is overly reliant upon Cam Newton, an uber-talented quarterback who can make plays with his arm and his legs but has only three years of NFL experience. If the season began today, Carolina would roll out journeymen receivers Jerricho Cotchery and Jason Avant with rookie Kelvin Benjamin behind them, none of which inspire much confidence.
Andre Johnson wouldn’t transform this group into a great unit, but he’d provide a pair of reliable hands while also functioning as a veteran mentor to Newton.
For a Miami native and alumnus of “The U” like Andre Johnson, a trade to the Dolphins might be the optimal scenario. At receiver, Miami returns Brain Hartline and Mike Wallace from last year’s roster while adding the sure-handed Jarvis Landry out of LSU. Though he hasn’t yet establishing himself as a franchise quarterback, Ryan Tannehill possesses all the talent required to make that leap in his third season.
But perhaps more importantly, Johnson brings credibility to a locker room void of it following last year’s bullying scandal. As a respected NFL veteran, he comes with the social currency to put an end to any leftover tribulations from the prior season.
Jason Hirschhorn covers the Green Bay Packers for Acme Packing Company. He also serves as a contributor at various publications. Follow him on Twitter: @JBHirschhorn