We heard a lot of Cardinals news yesterday, including that general manager Steve Keim said the team won’t be cutting running back David Johnson. Releasing Johnson would result in an astronomical $16.2MM dead cap hit, essentially making it impossible. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean Johnson will be back in Arizona in 2020, Ian Rapoport of NFL Network cautions (Twitter video link).
Rapoport says that the Cardinals could look to trade Johnson this offseason, looking for a deal where they would eat some of his salary. He also floated the possibility of Arizona attaching a draft pick with Johnson to get a team to take on his deal, similar to what the Texans did with Brock Osweiler a few years ago. Johnson’s reps certainly did a great job negotiating his contract, and it’s now one of the most burdensome pacts in the entire league. Just a couple of years ago Johnson was viewed as one of the best running backs in the league, which earned him a three-year, $39MM deal.
He cratered immediately after signing it, and he struggled with injuries last year. Even when he was healthy he simply wasn’t a difference maker, and the team pretty much completely stopped giving him the ball late in the year. Down the stretch he took a backseat to Kenyan Drake, who the Cardinals acquired in a trade with the Dolphins.
Speaking of Drake, Rapoport also said that the team wants to keep the impending free agent in the desert, either with a new deal or on the franchise tag. Drake dominated during the second half of the season with Arizona, rushing for 643 yards and eight touchdowns in only eight games while averaging 5.2 yards per carry. If the Cardinals aren’t able to work something out with Drake and he walks, maybe Johnson will be able to salvage his career, but right now it looks like he won’t be regaining his featured role in Kliff Kingsbury’s offense anytime soon.