Texans Should Just Let Johnson Walk
By Emin Avakian
In most cases, when a wide receiver nearing the ripe old age of 33 is unhappy with your franchise's situation, you show him the door without hesitation.
Such is the premise with Andre Johnson and the Houston Texans. Johnson, who will be 33 before the 2014 season kicks off, has expressed an undesire to be a part of a rebuilding season in Houston and has hinted that it might be time to cut ties after 11 seasons with the team. The future Hall of Famer will not attend the team’s mandatory minicamp, which runs from June 17-19 under first-year head coach Bill O’Brien.
Firstly, nobody can blame the franchises's all-time leader in every major receiving category — not when the Texans did little to address a forgettable 2-14 campaign, and not when Ryan Fitzpatrick is listed as QB1 on the depth chart going into the brunt of the offseason. If the fate of your season was riding on a journeyman who has done next to nothing since signing a six-year, $59 million ($24 million guaranteed) contract with Buffalo in 2011, then you'd look around the league for a better situation, as well.
The Texans chose to shore up their defense in the 2014 NFL Draft, taking Jadeveon Clowney with the first overall selection, and didn't take a quarterback until the fourth round in Tom Savage out of Pittsburgh, despite it being a more crucial need than, say, a tight end whom they drated in the third (C.J. Fiedorowicz).
Now if you're Andre Johnson, are you comfortable with seeing Fitzpatrick in a competition with Savage, Case Keenum and T.J. Yates for the starting job? Doubtful.
In an offense-friendly league, Houston botched not solidifying the most instrumental position in the sport, either with a higher (and better) draft pick, or trading for a Ryan Mallet. Instead, an abysmal offense from last year has not improved — at least on paper — with Fitzpatrick under center, a quickly aging Arian Foster, a disgruntled go-to receiver, along with DeAndre Hopkins, a pair of solid tight ends and an offensive line highlighted by Houston's second draft pick, Xavier Su' a-Filo.
With an increasing number of rules favoring the offense, a defense led by J.J. Watt and Clowney is going to be deemed irrelevant and will be nullified, unless they can hold the opponent to 14 points per game. It's an unbelievable defense with Brian Cushing, Brooks Reed and Louis Nix III also on board, but a defense is only as good as its offense allows it to be. And I don't want to speak for Andre Johnson, but I think he'd be more confident with Johnny Manziel or Blake Bortles leading the Texans.
The Texans entertained the thought of trading down from the top spot, too, before opting for Clowney over a potential franchise quarterback. Houston GM Rick Smith, coming off a 2-14 season, needs Clowney to be everything it appears he can be, and maybe play both sides of the ball.
“No, again I felt prepared,” Smith told reporters when he was asked if he felt pressure to nail the Clowney pick. “I think when you’re confident in your process and the [people] who are working with you, then I think it gives you a chance; and you’re diligent in your preparation, then I don’t think there is a need to be nervous or a reason to feel pressure.”
If you ask me, this has all the makings of a 6-10 season.
Back to Andre Johnson, it's unlikely he'll suit up for any other team this coming season. The Texans aren't going to take the significant financial hit — an $11.96 million hit, to be exact — and the team has Johnson signed through 2016. But that doesn't mean it's potentially a wasted season for a player not close to being finished (109 receptions for 1,407 yards and five touchdowns last season).
O'Brien's desire to helm a run-heavy offense is predicated on the notion that Foster is healthy and will be the MVP-caliber player of 2010-12. With Ben Tate in Cleveland, the Texans drafted Alfred Blue out of LSU to fill the complementary role. Even if both players make O'Brien look good and streamline a potent rushing attack, are they going to lead an offense that is expected to outscore the Indianapolis Colts of the world?
Some of you might be saying that Seattle did just fine with a run-heavy offense and a strong defense. All well and good, but they did employ Russell Wilson at quarterback. You're not winning a Super Bowl with a Ryan Fitzpatrick.
There can be no questioning Johnson's motives, nor should anyone speak ill of the man who has seen minimal playoff success in Houston and does not want to be part of a rebuilding phase.
First-year coach + uncertainty at the quarterback position + new schemes on both sides + lackluster offense = rebuilding.