Well, it’s looking like wide receiver Andre Johnson‘s time in Houston is over. On Monday, NFL Media’s Albert Breer reported that the Houston Texans had given Johnson the permission to begin openly seeking a trade.
Pro Football Talk reported Wednesday that Johnson has asked to be released from the Texans, and will not seek a trade. Either way, it’s clear that the Texans need to find a way to replace one of the best players in franchise history.
Johnson, a 2003 draft pick for Houston, has racked up over 13,000 yards on over 1000 receptions, but saw a career low in yards per reception last season. While he undoubtedly has had a remarkable career, and can still play at a very high level, the 33 year old’s career is likely on the decline.
Last December, Johnson indicated in a story by the Houston Chronicle that he would love to stay with the Texans for his entire career. However, it seems as though this was wishful thinking, as the team and player are set to part ways this offseason.
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The Texans must find a way to replace his production, and this will likely come through the Draft or Free-Agency. Second-year Houston receiver DeAndre Hopkins really stepped up last season, accumulating 1,210 receiving yards, but most of these were playing opposite Johnson.
With Andre out of the picture, Hopkins needs another talented player catching passes to take some of the pressure off of him.This season’s Free-Agent Wide Receiver class is very strong, headlined by players like former Green Bay receiver Randall Cobb, former Philadelphia receiver Jeremy Maclin, and former Baltimore receiver Torrey Smith. Johnson will create over a $16,000 cap hit from the Texans, so ridding themselves of this contract could open up a lot of space to sign one of these top Free-Agents.
The Baltimore Sun’s Jeff Zerebiec reported that Smith will likely leave Baltimore unless he’s willing to offer the team a “home-town discount.” This means that Smith will likely come at a pretty high price if Houston decides to pursue him.
Randall Cobb, too, will probably be a fairly expensive commodity. Last month, Cobb was “seeking a deal that averages in the $9 million per year range” according to ESPN. However, more recently Packer Report claimed that Cobb may in fact be taking a deal more in the $11 million range.
Jeremy Maclin also looks to come at a high price. While the Eagles failed to place a franchise tag on him, there’s still the possibility of them re-signing him. Whether they do, or he hits the open market, it seems from his production last season (1,318 yards and 10 touchdowns on 85 catches) that he will command a large contract.
These are just a few of the many players hitting the market this season though, as it’s projected by analysts such as CSN Philly’s Reuben Frank to be a “buyer’s market.” There is also a fairly deep wide receiver class in the year’s NFL Draft. If the Texans don’t want to spend the money for any of these free-agents, they can probably find a solution in the draft.
ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr. believes this season has “another loaded wide receiver draft class, ” following last season’s class that produced the likes of the Giants’ Odell Beckham Jr., the Buccaneer’s Mike Evans, and the Panthers’ Kelvin Benjamin. This trio of receivers became the first in NFL History to reach 1,000 receiving yards in their rookie seasons. The 2015 Draft class, however, may be just as strong.
This year’s group of wideouts includes Alabama’s Amari Cooper, West Virginia’s Kevin White, Louisville’s DeVante Parker, Arizona State’s Jaelen Strong, Oklahoma’s Dorial Green-Beckham, Miami’s Phillip Dorsett, Ohio State’s Devin Smith and Auburn’s Sammie Coates. NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock told USA TODAY Sports. “Their physical traits are comparable to last year’s group.”
With this many receivers projected to be skilled players at the next level, it seems likely the Texans will be able to find one in the draft that can at least begin to replace Johnson. Mayock claims that West Virginia’s Kevin White, “is a top-10 pick,” and it seems likely that Amari Cooper will also be off of the board by the time Houston picks at 16. This may mean they can grab one of the other players, or possibly wait a while and still be able to get some talent in such a deep class.
If White or Cooper slips down the board into Houston’s lap, however, they surely will at least strongly consider taking them as a Johnson replacement. Whether they can grab one of these top wideouts or fill this hole in Free-Agency, the Texans definitely need to address this issue.
With questions at quarterback and a running back in Arian Foster that sometimes has trouble staying healthy, having solid weapons on the outside is crucial for Houston’s success. Hopefully the Texans are able to acquire a reliable player that can line up opposite of DeAndre Hopkins and wreak havoc on opposing team’s secondaries.