Analyzing Andre Johnson for Colts


According to John McClain of The Houston Chronicle, longtime Houston Texans wideout (and Indianapolis Colts nemesis) Andre Johnson has asked to be traded or released when recently notified that he’d face a reduced role for this upcoming season:

Dec 21, 2014; Houston, TX, USA; Houston Texans wide receiver Andre Johnson (80) during the game against the Baltimore Ravens at NRG Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Given that he’s scheduled to make $10.5 million in base salary for next season, and it looks like Johnson’s release is imminent. The 13-year veteran has become the longest tenured player in Houston Texans history and is the franchise’s all-time leader in receptions (1,012), receiving yards (13,597), and touchdowns (64).

As the 3rd overall pick of the 2003 NFL Draft, Johnson has been a 7x Pro Bowler and 2x First-Team All-Pro during his career with the Texans and has consistently been one of the best wide receivers of his generation. If not for a career of largely unstable quarterback play, his numbers could be even better, which is a scary thought.

At a soon-to-be 34 years old, Johnson is clearly on the decline of his career, but could still be a productive wideout for a team if utilized appropriately. This past season he still caught 85 receptions for 936 receiving yards and 3 touchdowns despite shaky starting quarterback play. Even with the diminished production, Johnson is still one of the most well-respected veterans in the Houston Texans locker room:

While the Colts have previously kicked the tires on Johnson in their hunt for another proven wideout, I’d hope that they ideally look elsewhere, at least initially. That’s not a knock on Johnson, who’s had a Hall of Fame career and often remained one of the few lone bright spots on an modern expansion Texans franchise that’s had its fair share of struggles. 

However, Johnson is set to turn 34 years old, and the prudent way to replace “vintage” Reggie Wayne‘s production, as the team’s sure-handed security blanket isn’t to find a player that is almost nearly as old.

Don’t get me wrong, Johnson would’ve made sense…

3 years ago. 

Oct 9, 2014; Houston, TX, USA; Indianapolis Colts cornerback Vontae Davis (21) defends Houston Texans receiver Andre Johnson (80) in the fourth quarter at NRG Stadium. The Colts defeated the Texans 33-28. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Yes, the Colts could clearly use a proven big-bodied possession wideout, but there’s serious questions of whether that’s even Johnson anymore. At a chiseled 6’3, 230 pounds, Johnson certainly still looks the part, even if may not be able to play it consistently. Johnson no longer has the explosive separation that he once had, and a player built like a possession wideout is of no use if they can’t actually get open to catch a pass.

The Colts offense was held to a meager 7 points in their AFC Championship loss to the New England Patriots because in addition to a lackluster ground game, the Colts receiving corps couldn’t consistently get open which left Andrew Luck largely no one to throw to.

The Patriots secondary double teamed T.Y. Hilton with safety help, had shutdown cornerback Darrelle Revis draped over Donte Moncrief in one-on-one coverage, and dared either Reggie Wayne or Hakeem Nicks to beat single coverage, which they couldn’t consistently do. I don’t know about you, but I’m not overly confident that a 34 year old Johnson is going to consistently shake the always physical Patriots cornerback Brandon Browner in coverage either going forward to be honest. 

Players like Larry Fitzgerald (31) and Brandon Marshall (30) have been strongly advocated by me, but they are also a few years younger than Johnson. While Fitzgerald is solidified as an Arizona Cardinal for the foreseeable future, the Chicago Bears Brandon Marshall is simply a better option than Johnson at this point in their respective careers, even if the Colts would have to surrender significant draft pick compensation to acquire him.

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At age 30, Marshall still has a handful of highly productive years left in him and at the worst, is a great #2 wideout. We’ve noted that Marshall

makes a great deal of sense for the Colts

, even with the lucrative money still owed on his current contract and the significant draft compensation required to acquire him.

Meanwhile, Andre Johnson could very well be just an average #2 wideout at this stage of his career, not offering much more than Hakeem Nicks gave the team last season with diminished burst and explosion. Armed with more than $40 million of cap space, the Colts should strive to do much better than that this offseason, if they truly want to give the New England Patriots a run for their money.

As a potential final resort, Johnson would be a fair consolation prize if all of their other wideout targets seemingly dry up; however, the team should ideally set the bar a bit higher coming out of the gates. Andre Johnson is a nice player, just not so much a fit at 34 years old anymore for the Colts. 

Oct 9, 2014; Houston, TX, USA; Houston Texans receiver Andre Johnson (80) reacts after the game against the Indianapolis Colts at NRG Stadium. The Colts beat the Texans 33-28. Mandatory Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports