Today Andre Johnson turned 33, but he hasn't shown any signs that he's slowing down. One of the most consistently productive elite wide receivers of this last generation and having spent all 11 seasons of it with the Houston Texans, Johnson is, however, looking to spend the final years of his career somewhere else.
The problem: He's still under contract for another three seasons, from 2014 to 2016. Making matters worse for Johnson's trade hopes is that his current significantly large contract could impede the prospect twofold.
First, if the Texans were to deal him, they'd be forced to eat nearly $12 million in dead money against the cap in 2014 as some other team benefits from his services. Second, the team getting Johnson has to be in a healthy enough cap situation of their own to absorb what's left of his massive contract over the next three years, although it won't include any guaranteed money Houston already paid out to him.
Johnson has made it clear that the reason he wants out is because of the lack of organizational stability, most recently and specifically at the quarterback position, and what he perceives to be a rebuilding situation. But the teams winning most consistently and with the most stability at QB, aren't necessarily the same ones willing to take on the final three years of a huge back-loaded deal for a 33-year-old receiver.
Demanding a trade and ultimately picking your favorite destination don't work hand-in-hand in the NFL. Opening this door means Johnson should be prepared to go to the highest bidder, which could end up being just as historically unstable as the place he's leaving.
Could that place be Cleveland?
Despite the prohibitive contract numbers, four teams have expressed interest in a potential trade for Johnson, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL.com. Rapoport didn't specify which teams they were, but did say some are "pretty obvious." Marc Sessler, also of NFL.com, later said the Browns and Patriots were among the potential landing spots.
This begs the question: What is it going to take to get Houston to swallow nearly $12 million in dead money and deal away an aging star receiver they've expressed a desire to keep? And how much will teams be willing to give up when considering the huge contract that comes with him?
The Dawgs By Nature staff weighs in:
‣ Jon Stinchcomb: "Josh Gordon's lengthy list of off-the-field issues is well-documented by now. Despite how minor we have may felt the violations have been at times, the one thing that's remained certain is the consistency at which they occur, which is simply unacceptable at the NFL level. He needs help and he needs to be willing to help himself. The Browns also have to move forward as far as football is concerned. The suspension, whatever length it may be, is inevitable. But I don't think the Browns should cut Gordon. Do what it takes to help him, even during his time off.
"Meanwhile, I think Andre Johnson could be the perfect stop gap solution while Gordon recovers. Farmer and Pettine have gotten just about everyone they've talked with to buy in. If Johnson just needs a change of scenery and the Browns are willing to pull the trigger, I believe they might just be able to sell him on it as well. With that said, I'm not willing to trade more than a third-rounder, which I think would be fair for both teams, assuming Johnson is otherwise holding out."
‣ Zach Miller: "I'm vehemently against trading for Andre Johnson, unless the price is stupid cheap. I wouldn't do it for anything higher than a 5th round pick, and that may be pushing it. There's a lot of miles on those 33-year-old legs. And who's to say he'll be happier in Cleveland? Houston has been up and down, but at least had a couple up seasons.
"As much as we love our Browns, our seasons have been almost exclusively down. It'd be a nightmare to trade for a disgruntled aging WR, to only have him stay disgruntled and not produce. As previously stated, it'd take a real sweet deal for the Browns to pull this off, one I just don't see Houston wanting to make."
‣ Josh Finney: "Andre Johnson has proven to be incredibly reliable and durable throughout his career, and comes with the added bonus of instant familiarity in Kyle Shanahan's system. In fact, not only would he immediately be the most TALENTED receiver playing on day 1 of the 2014 season (heh) but he'd also immediately be the most comfortable with the offensive scheme.
"AJ's got a few years left before the wheels will start to come off, and he'd be an incredible bridge for the Browns to get the WR of the next decade. The young receivers on the team (and coming through the next few drafts) would be well suited to learn from such a consummate and likable professional. (Creates an added bonus of not throwing aforementioned young receivers immediately into the fire.)"
‣ Notthatnoise: "Don't get me wrong, Andre Johnson is a great receiver and would likely make the Browns a better team next season, but I wouldn't be willing to give up more than a late round pick for him. He's asking out of Houston because they aren't a threat to make the playoffs any time soon, do we really think he'd be happier in Cleveland? This feels an awful lot like the Blue Jackets trading for Jeff Carter a few years ago. Looks great on paper, probably won't end well.
"The other big reason I don't want Johnson is his contract. He's under contract for two more seasons after this one, at cap hits of $11.5 million and $12 million. He's 33 years old, and while he has still been performing well, his wheels are going to fall off any day now. We couldn't even really save much money by cutting him early either, as he would count for $7 million against the cap if we cut him before 2016. All in all, I think Johnson is a great player, but I don't think he'd bring a good attitude with him and I don't like his contract commitment. For a late pick? Sure. For any real assets? No way."
‣ Rufio: "In my opinion, Andre Johnson is worth a 3rd round pick and either a 5th round pick this year or a 4th rounder the following. He would provide an immediate model of consistency, success, and professionalism for our young receivers (and hopefully our future young receivers). He would threaten a defense in a way that none of our opening day pass catchers would, and he would help our entire offense.
"He isn't getting younger, but 2-3 years of Johnson would be worth more than the NFL average 3rd rounder and 5th rounder. I wouldn't want to deal a pick in the first two rounds, which I consider franchise-building picks with a high rate of return (and major trade chips)."
Now that you've heard DBN weigh in, how do you feel? Should the Browns make a push for Andre Johnson?