Longtime Texans wide receiver Andre Johnson wasn’t in attendance at the team’s spring workouts and camp, but remains open to the possibility of attending training camp later this month. Johnson told NFL Media’s Marcus Smith on Wednesday that he’ll “hopefully” be present when Houston’s training camp gets underway, though he didn’t commit to anything, and didn’t make any promises about being in uniform for the club’s regular season opener.
“I don’t know. I can’t answer that question,” Johnson replied when asked about that Week 1 game against the Redskins.
Johnson, who turns 33 tomorrow, expressed frustration earlier this year with the Texans’ direction and his role with the team. According to Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (via Twitter), the $1MM workout bonus lost by Johnson due to his absence this spring is currently a point of contention between the Texans and the receiver, who wants an opportunity to earn that money back. The team has denied that request, according to Rapoport.
Of course, Johnson’s absence from spring workouts was a result of earlier dissatisfaction, so the bonus money isn’t the only roadblock. It’s believed that Johnson is upset with the club’s 2-14 performance last year and the fact that the quarterback situation remains uncertain — after trading Matt Schaub to Oakland, the Texans signed Ryan Fitzpatrick and drafted Tom Savage, two signal-callers who aren’t exactly viewed as Super Bowl caliber options at this point in their respective careers. As he enters the late stages of his career, Johnson isn’t enthusiastic about going through another rebuilding process with a team that hasn’t been a consistent contender in the AFC during his tenure.
Per Rapoport (via Twitter), Johnson has informed Houston that he wants to play for another team in 2014, and the former third overall pick is “not thinking of the Texans” as he works out independently now. Rapoport adds that four clubs have expressed interest in trading for the receiver, who is coming off back-to-back Pro Bowl seasons. Still, it’s hard to imagine the Texans agreeing to a deal that would likely result in pennies on the dollar for Johnson, unless they felt they had no other options.
I’d expect the Texans will lay out their plan for returning to playoff contention in the short term – and perhaps promise to address Johnson’s situation via a trade or extension during the 2015 offseason – and hope that’s enough to convince the star wideout to return to the field for the coming season. Rapoport suggests (via Twitter) that the team could also guarantee Johnson he’ll be on the roster in 2015 and can retire a Texan. That would give him the opportunity to earn his full $10.5MM base salary during his age-34 season.
For now, the two sides appear to be at an impasse. If Johnson decides not to report to training camp, the Texans will be able to fine him up to $30K for each missed day.