In the aftermath following the disaster that was Johnny Manziel’s first start...
Could Texans Receiver Andre Johnson Realistically Suit Up for the Cleveland Browns?
For months, the reports coming out of the Houston Texans facility have been that of star receiver Andre Johnson‘s reluctance to play another down for the team. While many players have held out for a pay increase, Johnson’s issue stems from the team’s lack of playoff success throughout his career, and their ever-revolving rotation at the quarterback position.
Currently, the Texans have journeyman backup Ryan Fitzpatrick at the helm, while they attempt to develop Case Keenum and Tom Savage, a task that sets them up for 2015 under the best case scenario. For a Pro Bowl wideout entering the twilight of his career, waiting is not much of an option, and Johnson is making the point known.
The Texans have a stacked defense on paper, but injuries have consistently wreaked havoc on the team, and the lack of additions to the offense have clearly begun to weigh on Johnson. After losing Ben Tate to Cleveland, the team added veteran Andre Brown, who has had his own share of injuries, and are inclined to go with him and Arian Foster on the ground.
Through the air, the team has a very young receiving core that still has a lot to prove. DeAndre Hopkins showed flashes of greatness, while DeVier Posey and Keshawn Martin have some promise as well. Outside of Johnson, however, nobody on that list is capable of pulling the safety from the middle of the field. With a quarterback of Fitzpatrick’s skill-set, an explosive home-run hitter like Johnson will be vital in the offense, hence the reluctance of Houston to part with him.
A top 10 receiver by all accounts, it is hard to replace a receiver like Johnson, but the team may choose to get compensation for him if they feel he simply will not play for them. Johnson has already skipped voluntary workouts and mandatory minicamp, and on Wednesday, he told NFL Media’s Marcus Smith that “hopefully” he’d show up for training camp. With a player not buying into new coach Bill O’Brien, the trade conversation has to take place. The big question is what would the team demand?
The biggest issues with Johnson include his age (33), his contract ($10 million) and the fact that the Texans want to keep Johnson in uniform. For the Cleveland Browns, they have the cap space, and they certainly have the need for a true No.1 option with the likely suspension of Josh Gordon on the horizon. The question becomes if the Browns truly feel they are ready to compete for the Lombardi this season.
Popular opinion would deem they are not Super Bowl contenders this season with new coaches, schemes, new players and instability at key positions. The confidence of general manager Ray Farmer and head coach Mike Pettine could be the wildcard in the pursuit of Johnson, as they have stated many times they expect to compete this year early-on. If the Browns truly feel they are contenders this season and are merely a piece away, it’s not out of the realm of possible to see the team offer a second or third-round pick for him, especially considering the abundance of picks they own in 2015.
As it stands, the Browns receiving core is counting on Miles Austin and Nate Burleson to stay healthy, Charles Johnson and Travis Benjamin to come back successfully from ACL injuries in time for training camp, newly-acquired slot receiver Andrew Hawkins, veteran deep threat Anthony Armstrong and a handful of undrafted free agents. If you thought the Texans receiving core was questionable without Johnson, the Browns receiving core without Gordon may have even more question marks.
Nothing is likely to play out before the Texans see if Johnson reports to training camp, as well as when Houston and Cleveland make their evaluations of what else they have at the position. The option is on the table, now it’s only a matter of time until the NFL is watching the Johnson saga unfold as we lead up to the beginning of NFL training camps.
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