David Johnson (RB)

Texans Place David Johnson On Reserve/COVID-19 List

The Texans have placed running back David Johnson on the reserve/COVID-19 list, the team announced. Johnson landed on the list because of his status as a close contact of someone who tested positive for the coronavirus, according to the Houston Chronicle’s Aaron Wilson (on Twitter).

It’s especially bad timing for Johnson, who suffered a concussion during Houston’s Week 9 win over the Jaguars, landed on IR as a result, and was activated just last week. In the Texans’ loss to the Colts on Sunday, Johnson carried the ball 10 times for 44 yards and a score.

For the season, he has mustered a 4.0 yards-per-carry average over 113 totes to go along with four TDs. He’s added 16 catches for 161 yards and a score through the air. Those are all decent enough numbers, but the Texans (or at least since-deposed HC/GM Bill O’Brien) were probably hoping for more when they acquired Johnson from Arizona this offseason in one of the most heavily-criticized trades in recent memory.

At this point, it seems unlikely that Johnson will ever regain the All-Pro form he demonstrated with the Cardinals back in 2016. He will turn 29 next week, and the injuries he has sustained over the years certainly appear to have taken their toll. He is under contract through 2021, but his base salary of $7.95MM and roster bonus of $1.05MM look pretty steep at this point. It would not be surprising to see the Texans try to work out a paycut with Johnson or to simply release him.

Duke Johnson will get the majority of the work in David Johnson’s stead for this weekend’s matchup with the Bears.

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Minor NFL Transactions: 12/6/20

A couple of minor moves from the past day to pass along:

Cincinnati Bengals

Houston Texans

Bledsoe tested positive for COVID-19 this morning, Ian Rapoport of NFL Network tweets, although obviously there wasn’t enough concern to cancel their game against the Dolphins. Bledsoe had been playing a big role on Cincy’s reshuffled defensive line in recent weeks, notching almost half the defensive snaps. Johnson and Emanuel both missed a few games with concussions and returned for Houston today.

Texans Activate RB David Johnson From IR

David Johnson should be back on the field tomorrow for the Texans. Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle reports (via Twitter) that Houston is activating the veteran from injured reserve. The Texans are also promoting wideout Steven Mitchell from the practice squad.

Johnson suffered a concussion during his team’s Week 9 win over the Jaguars, landing him on injured reserve. Over the past three-plus games, the Texans have mostly leaned on pass-catching back Duke Johnson to lead their rushing attack, although C.J. Prosise started digging into those carries during Houston’s Thanksgiving-day win over the Lions.

Following a number of injury-filled campaigns, the Cardinals dealt Johnson to Houston this past offseason in the DeAndre Hopkins trade. While the 28-year-old has an All-Pro nod on his resume, he still hasn’t rebounded to the point of justifying the three-year, $39MM extension he signed with Arizona back in 2018.

In eight starts this season, Johnson has rushed for 408 yards and three touchdowns on 103 carries, good for only 4.0 yards per carry. Further, while Johnson used to be a force catching the ball (he had 80 receptions back in 2016), he’s only hauled in 16 catches for 161 yards and one score in 2020.

Mitchell, a former undrafted free agent out of USC, has spent most of his three-year career with the Texans organization. The 26-year-old has appeared in five career games (one start), hauling in two catches for 37 yards.

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Texans Place David Johnson On IR

The concussion David Johnson suffered last week will pause his initial Texans season until at least December. The Texans placed their starting running back on IR.

Johnson will be out until at least Week 13. The Texans elevated C.J. Prosise from their practice squad earlier Saturday; he represents depth behind Duke Johnson for the time being.

Acquired in one of the bigger offseason trades in recent memory, David Johnson has at least been available throughout this season — after injuries became commonplace for the former All-Pro in Arizona. The former Cardinals standout, however, has not rebounded to the point of justifying the three-year, $39MM extension or being a key part of a DeAndre Hopkins trade. Johnson is averaging 4.0 yards per carry and has only caught 16 passes (for 161 yards) this season.

After acquiring Kenyan Drake from the Dolphins, the Cardinals benched Johnson last season. He battled multiple injuries in 2019 and missed 15 games in 2017 because of a broken wrist. Johnson, 29 next month, has one season remaining on his Cardinals-constructed contract.

Houston also activated safety A.J. Moore from IR and placed linebacker Dylan Cole on its injured list. The team promoted Corey Liuget, offensive lineman Greg Mancz and linebacker Nate Hall as well.

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David Johnson Passes Texans Physical

Great news for David Johnson and bad news for Texans fans who were hoping for the DeAndre Hopkins trade to be nullified. The running back has passed his physical exam, according to Mike Garafolo of NFL.com (on Twitter). 

[RELATED: Texans Trade DeAndre Hopkins To Cardinals, Receive David Johnson] 

Meanwhile, Hopkins has also passed his physical with the Cardinals, so everything should be clear for the swap to become officially official. All along, both teams have expressed confidence that the trade would be completed, despite the hiccups presented by the ongoing pandemic. Outside of Houston headquarters, many speculated that Johnson’s past maladies would raise red flags and scuttle the deal. In Arizona, they had to do a careful check on Hopkins’ surgically-repaired wrist, though that injury has not slowed him as much over the years.

Johnson was once one of the NFL’s very best tailbacks, but he’s hasn’t looked like the same player as of late. In 2019, DJ missed games and ultimately lost his spot in the pecking order to Kenyan Drake. All together, he carried the ball just 94 times and averaged 3.7 yards per try. His last big year came in 2016, when he earned Pro Bowl and First-Team All-Pro nods as he ran for 1,239 yards. Then, in 2017, he saw most of his season wiped out.

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Cardinals Have “No Concern” Over DeAndre Hopkins Trade

Three weeks ago, the Cardinals swung a blockbuster deal with the Texans to acquire DeAndre Hopkins. Three weeks later, the deal has yet to be finalized due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Still, Cardinals head coach Kliff Kingsbury is confident that the trade will be finalized before the “fully virtual” NFL Draft begins on April 23. 

[RELATED: Cardinals Eyeing Tight Ends In Draft]

There’s no concern,” Kingsbury told reporters this week (via Mason Kern of Sports Illustrated). “Those (physicals) aren’t official as far as I know at this point, but we’ll get it done. There’s obviously — the medical field and personnel have much bigger fish to fry at this point. It’s been slower than it (normally) would be, but I have no doubts it’ll be done before the draft.”

The delay has some Cardinals fans nervous and, perhaps, has some Texans fans hopeful that, somehow, the deal will be nixed and Hopkins will return to Houston. That doesn’t seem like it’ll be the case. Barring any snags involving the physicals, Hopkins is going to Arizona and running back David Johnson is going to Houston.

Despite his injury history, Johnson was reportedly healthy by the end of the 2019 season. In theory, the Texans could use a spotty medical check to renegotiate the deal, but there shouldn’t be any real surprises once the running back is finally looked over. Besides, the Cardinals have already started discussing a new deal with Hopkins and the Texans weren’t willing to give into his contract demands in the first place.

For now, D-Hop is set to count for just $12.5MM against the Cardinals’ cap in 2020. His cap charges for the rest of his contract – which runs through 2022 – do not exceed $14MM in any given season.

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Latest On DeAndre Hopkins Trade

One of the most heavily-scrutinized trades in recent memory — the deal that will presumably send star wideout DeAndre Hopkins and a 2020 fourth-round pick to the Cardinals in exchange for David Johnson, a 2020 second-round pick, and a 2021 fourth-rounder — has not yet been processed because the players involved have been unable to take physicals, as Adam Schefter of ESPN.com observes (via Twitter). Of course, the same holds true for a number of free agent pacts around the league, but given the magnitude of, and fallout from, the Hopkins-Johnson swap, the fact that it’s not yet set in stone is significant.

In order to avoid having their free agent signees in a holding pattern, some teams have taken the route that the Bengals recently took with one of their big offseason acquisitions, D.J. Reader. Readers’s deal is now “official,” but he agreed to additional language in his contract which states that he still must pass a physical in order for the deal to take effect. If he doesn’t pass, the Bengals will have the option of cutting him immediately or keeping the contract as-is.

Similarly, if Hopkins and/or Johnson should fail a physical, it would give Houston and Arizona the ability to back out of the trade altogether. As it presently stands, the Cardinals — who are already said to be talking contract with Hopkins — would be hurt the most by such a development, and it stands to reason that they would then push for a modified deal that still brings the three-time First Team All-Pro to the desert.

On the other hand, a failed physical would allow the Texans and head coach/de facto GM Bill O’Brien to back out of a trade that has been universally panned, and while the underlying reasons for the trade would still exist — Hopkins’ contract demands and reported friction between Hopkins and O’Brien — O’Brien would surely welcome a chance to negotiate a more favorable accord with Cardinals GM Steve Keim.

The odds are slim that either Hopkins or Johnson will fail a physical. Hopkins has been the picture of health in his seven-year career, and while the same cannot be said for Johnson, he at least appeared to be 100% at the end of the 2019 season (even if his playing time was slashed). More likely than not, the trade will go through and Texans fans will remain bitter about it, but until it becomes official, it’s a situation worth monitoring.

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South Notes: Colts, Hoyer, Texans, Bucs

Before the Colts released Brian Hoyer last week, they discussed trading the veteran quarterback to the Patriots, the club that ultimately signed Hoyer once he was cut, as Stephen Holder of The Athletic writes. The conversations seemed to be at least somewhat serious in nature, as Holder reports trade compensation was discussed, but a deal never came together. Had New England acquired Hoyer, it would have been responsible for the rest of the three-year, $12MM contract Hoyer signed with Indianapolis in 2019. Instead, the Patriots inked Hoyer to a one-year, $1.05MM pact that includes up to $2MM in available incentives.

Here’s more from the NFL’s two South divisions:

  • The Texans have been widely panned for the trade which sent wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins to Arizona and running back David Johnson to Houston, and the terms of Johnson’s contract aren’t going to make matters improve. Johnson, whose 2020 base salary of $10.2MM is already guaranteed, saw $2.1MM of his 2021 salary become fully guaranteed last Friday, tweets Mike Garafolo of NFL.com. The veteran back is scheduled to count for more than $11MM on the Texans’ salary cap in 2020 before that figure drops to $9MM in 2021.
  • In other Texans contract news, linebacker Benardrick McKinney‘s $6MM base salary for 2020 is now fully guaranteed, per Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle (Twitter link). McKinney, who inked a five-year, $50MM extension with Houston in 2018, previously had this year’s base salary guaranteed for injury only. The inside linebacker market has exploded since McKinney signed that pact, as his $10MM annual salary now ranks just 12th at the position.
  • After making the biggest move in franchise history by signing Tom Brady to a free agent deal, the Buccaneers still have work to do in the upcoming draft. Tampa Bay still wants to find a pass-catching running back to work alongside Ronald Jones, while right tackle is also an an area that could be addressed, as Greg Auman of The Athletic writes. The Bucs did sign former Colts offensive lineman Joe Haeg as an option on the right side, but the 27-year-old has only started six total games in the past two seasons.

Bucs Unlikely To Trade For David Johnson

Some have speculated that Bucs head coach Bruce Arians could make a play for his old pal David Johnson. However, if the Cardinals try to trade the running back, it’s unlikely that the Bucs will be in the mix, Josh Weinfuss of ESPN.com (on Twitter) hears. 

The Cardinals have gone on the record to say that cutting Johnson is “not an option.” The running back is due $13MM/year on his monster contract and releasing him would saddle the team with a $16.2MM dead money hit. If he remains on the team, he’d carry a $14.1MM cap charge for the 2020 season.

Johnson’s was once one of the league’s very best running backs. But, thanks to ankle and back injuries, he’s looked nothing like his old self. Last year, the Cardinals limited his carries and acquired Kenyan Drake via trade before the deadline, further downsizing his role. Drake, meanwhile, is on course to be a free agent later this month.

Even if Drake returns, the Cardinals have not discounted the possibility of keeping Johnson as backfield reinforcement. Then again, they don’t have a whole lot of options. Johnson, simply put, is not the player he used to be, and his contract is an anchor.

Last year, Johnson missed time and averaged just 3.7 yards on 94 totes. His last big year came in 2016, when he earned Pro Bowl and First-Team All-Pro nods as he ran for 1,239 yards. Before that, he put his name on the map as a rookie by averaging 4.6 yards per carry.

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Cardinals GM: We Won’t Cut David Johnson

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.

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