The Houston Texans have had the luxury of employing one of the best wide receivers in the NFL for more than a decade in Andre Johnson. However with his looming cap hit being more than ten million in each of the next two years, it may be hard to justify keeping him for the duration of his deal. Paying that kind of money to a receiver who will be 34 before the season starts does not fit in the current youth movement the NFL is seeing at the skill positions.
Of course it is not an all or nothing proposition as the team does have the ability to rework his deal to keep him in Houston. This of course would require Johnson to take a pay cut, which according to Pro Football Talk, he is willing to do so. Although, according to Johnson himself, he didn’t exactly say he would take a reduction according to NFL.com.
Recently Steven Mullenax, Toro Times editor, posted a poll asking if the team should simply move on from Andre Johnson due to his salary and decline in production. As of this writing 69% said the Texans should keep the veteran receiver. However, if a team allows the fans to make the decisions, usually people end up getting fired.
With that in mind, the best move may be to allow youth to be served and let DeAndre Hopkins take the reins as the number one wide receiver, and look to the draft for a playmaking number two. One available option is Arizona State University receiver Jaelen Strong.
Strong is a 6’3″ 215 pound wide out who is known for making big plays, like the “Jael Mary” against USC. In that contest he had ten receptions for 202 yards and three touchdowns. Strong finished the year with impressive numbers, 82 receptions, 1,165 yards and ten touchdowns. This was a follow up to his sophomore season where he recored 75 catches for 1,062 yards and also had ten scores.
While I admit I may be a little biased being an ASU alumni, Strong reminds me, especially build wise, of the Denver Broncos wide receiver Demaryius Thomas. On the right team I believe he can be a solid playmaker. In Houston he can take pressure off DeAndre Hopkins and be a solid number two receiver for years to come.
CBS Sports.com has Strong listed as the 27th best player overall, but he could still climb the boards with a good showing at the combine. His athleticism comes from being the son of former Drexel basketball star, John Rankin who sadly passed away from leukemia in 2003 when Jaelen was only nine years old.
The Pennsylvania native made his way to Los Angeles and played for Pierce College before transferring to the valley of the sun to star as a Sun Devil. ASU coach Todd Graham says, in an article by Dane Brugler of CBS Sports, that Strong made a positive impact from the moment he stepped onto the field for the Devils.
"“Jaelen’s enormous impact was felt from the first day he stepped on the practice field with us more than 16 months ago,” said Arizona State head coach Todd Graham. “His work ethic, attention to detail and overall football IQ are just a few of his attributes that make him such a special talent.”"
Texans head coach Bill O’Brien will try his best to establish a young, competitive team that will be in the mix for years to come. To do so the offense will need playmakers and someone like Strong could be just the guy to get the ball moving for the Texans.