Word came out Tuesday that, following a meeting with Coach Bill O’Brien, Andre Johnson and his agent have been given permission by the Texans to seek a trade. While that may be unlikely for a receiver who will be 34 this coming season, the Texans would reportedly be open to letting Johnson go outright to allow the receiver to move on.
Details of the meeting aren’t widely known, but The Houston Chronicle is reporting that Johnson was unhappy about receiving news that his role in the offense would be significantly reduced in 2015.
“I don’t know how you tell a guy who catches 85 balls that he’ll only probably catch 40. I feel like the role they were trying to put me in I’d be held back from maximizing my talents. I feel like that was the best thing for both sides.
Johnson certainly has a fair point. The Texans relied on the likes of Ryan Fitzpatrick, Ryan Mallett, and Case Keenum to get him the ball, and he still managed a team-high 85 catches for 937 yards and three touchdowns. Though, these were his lowest catch and yardage totals in any season in which he played in 13-plus games since 2006. The emergence of DeAndre Hopkins as a WR1 probably makes the rationale for letting Johnson go somewhat more reasonable, but for a team with an aging running back in Arian Foster, a question mark at QB and relatively few talented playmakers (with the exception of J.J. Watt, who would probably do alright even if he also returned kicks), I see this as a money move that could hurt the on-field product more than help Bob McNair’s wallet.
Johnson has two years remaining on his contract and a salary-cap figure of $16.1 million for 2015. He carries a base salary of $10.5 million, highest on the team. His base escalates to $11 million in 2016, counting for more than $14.6 million against the salary cap. With this information, it’s more understandable why the Texans might wish to rid themselves of a player who can still contribute. This situation calls to mind that of Anquan Boldin , who was let go by the Cardinals in 2010 after it was assumed he had outlived his shelf life. Boldin has gone on to play five years since being released by his first team, winning a Super Bowl with Baltimore in 2012 and making it back the next year with San Francisco. His two seasons with the Niners have been very respectable, topping 1,060 yards in both seasons and delivering 12 total touchdowns. Johnson is absolutely capable of playing a similar role for a team that could use a big, sure-handed receiver. I hope, for his sake, he is able to latch on with a contending team with a quality starting quarterback (Denver? Seattle? New Orleans? Carolina? Indianapolis?) and is given the opportunity to play in a Super Bowl, something that has eluded him throughout his 12-year career.