Andre Johnson‘s frustration with the Texans’ organization has been well documented. The star receiver has made it very clear that he has no interest in returning to the team to endure another rebuilding era, and has asked to be traded out of Houston.
Johnson has been linked to a handful of teams as a trade destination throughout the course of this offseason, including the Jets, Colts, Browns, Patriots, Panthers, and Chiefs. However, Johnson’s $10MM salary in 2014 limits his options as teams have already pressed themselves up against the cap.
Johnson has already skipped the team’s mandatory minicamp, a move that caused him to forfeit a $1MM roster bonus, in addition to the nearly $70,000 fine incurred for missing the time.
The Texans have displayed zero interest in moving the best player in the brief history of the franchise, and that is unlikely to change anytime soon. The unfortunate truth for Johnson is that the organization holds all the cards in this standoff.
If Johnson were to try to hold out of training camp, or even the beginning of the regular season, the financial penalties would be tremendous, according to Joel Corry of CBSSports.com. The Texans’ organization could fine their star up to $30,000 per day of training camp missed, which is no small change even for a star of Johnson’s size.
The scarier thought is the money from Johnson’s signing bonus that the team could try to recoup. Corry explains:
Under the NFL Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA), teams can recoup 15 percent of the prorated amount of a signing bonus on the sixth day of a training camp holdout. It’s one percent for each additional missed day with a maximum of 25 percent of the prorated amount during training camp. An additional 25 percent can be recovered with the first missed regular season game. After four missed weeks, a team can recover one-seventeenth of the prorated amount for each additional week of the player’s absence. The maximum a team can recover in a season is the entire prorated amount of the player’s signing bonus in that contract year.
This number could be compounded should Johnson decide to holdout, and would prove extremely costly. This is especially true because when Johnson restructured his contract three times to allow the Texans more breathing room under the salary cap, he turned $18.5MM of his base salary numbers into a signing bonus. This is significant because a team cannot go after a player’s already paid salary, but they have the right to try to go after signing bonus money in the event that the player is unwilling to perform.
Other players who restructured their big money contracts, were sure to include language that would prevent the team from going after that money, since it was converted from salary into a signing bonus. In this scenario, the player can help their team create some cap room without directly putting their own money in jeopardy. Johnson failed to include any of this protective language in his restructure.
Because of that, Johnson is in a position to lose a huge amount of money if he continues to fail to reports during training camp. If he had protected his signing bonus, he would be currently in danger of losing less than $500,000 in prorated bonus money at the most, plus game checks for every week he did not play, if it came to that. Now that maximum number has ballooned to nearly $4.45MM. A six day training camp holdout will cost him over $111,000 per day, rather than just over $70,000 total for six days.
Johnson even lost the leverage of a potential retirement, not that this was a realistic scenario anyway. But due to the contract language, he would owe the Texans more than $11.36MM in the event that the receiver retired before the season. Once again, had he protected his signing bonus during the restructures, he would owe less than $1MM if he decided to retire prematurely.
Financially, Johnson has nothing going for him if he wanted to force his way out of Houston. He can ask for all the trades he wants, but if the team is not willing, he will have to show up for work all season, as unhappy as he is with the direction of the team.