The Cardinals figure to be active this offseason, but a David Johnson release won’t be on the agenda. In a radio interview on Friday morning, GM Steve Keim ruled out the possibility of cutting the running back.
“Cutting him is not an option,” Keim told 98.7 FM (Twitter link via Darren Urban of the team website).
It’s hard to argue with Keim’s take. Johnson’s contract – worth $13MM per year on average – offers no real escape at the moment. Cutting him this offseason would result in a $16.2MM dead money hit. On the roster, he carries a $14.1MM cap charge.
Johnson was once one of the league’s most feared running backs. Unfortunately, ankle and back injuries have held him back in recent years and the Cardinals responded by slashing his workload in 2019 and acquiring Kenyan Drake in a surprising midseason deal. Drake is scheduled to reach free agency in March, but regardless of how it shakes out, Johnson figures to be a part of the team next year.
“You can’t just have one back,” Keim noted.
Johnson missed a big chunk of time in the middle of the season before returning in Week 13. Then, between Weeks 13 and 16, he was handed the ball just four times. He finished out with less than four yards per tote for the second straight season but, on the plus side, he was still contributing as a pass-catcher.
Johnson inked a three-year, $39MM deal with the Cardinals in 2018 that takes him through the 2021 season. Whether he makes it to the final year of that deal will be dependent on his health and Drake’s effectiveness (if re-signed). Next year, the Cardinals will have the option of shedding Johnson’s scheduled $12MM charge and saving $9MM against a much more palatable $3MM.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.