David Johnson (RB)

Cardinals RB David Johnson “Encouraged” By Extension Talks

Cardinals running back David Johnson said earlier this week that he’s been “encouraged” by his ongoing extension negotiations, according to Darren Urban of AZCardinals.com.

“I think that’s what it is — I didn’t play,” Johnson said. “I didn’t play last year. I was hoping my production from my second year and what I did my first year would help out, but the NFL is what have you done for me lately, so hopefully I can prove it once the season starts.”

Johnson, of course, was arguably the NFL’s best offensive player during the 2016 season. In addition to being name first-team All-Pro, Johnson managed 1,239 yards and 16 touchdowns plus 80 receptions, 879 yards, and four more scores in the passing game. However, a dislocated wrist forced Johnson to miss most of the 2017 campaign, and that absence will surely affect his upcoming contract.

Johnson skipped Cardinals minicamp earlier this year in something of a mini-holdout, but subsequently reported to training camp. Arizona has reportedly been working towards a contract with Johnson’s camp, and that progress shouldn’t be delayed by general manager Steve Keim‘s team-imposed suspension.

Rams running back Todd Gurley reset the running back market last month by agreeing to a new deal which contains a $14.375MM annual value and $21.95MM in guarantees, but it’s difficult to see Johnson approaching that figure. Not only is Johnson coming off a lost season, but he’s nearly three years older than Gurley. Still, a contract which tops double-digits annually should be expected for Johnson, who will earn just $1.907MM in 2018.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Extra Points: Cardinals, Johnson, Gurley, Running Backs, Jets, Darnold, McDowell, Seahawks

David Johnson made waves when it was announced he was staying away from the team’s mandatory minicamp in June in search of a new contract. He put an end to any speculation he might hold out for an extended period of time by showing up to training camp on time. Johnson was one of the best players in the entire league in 2016, but missed almost all of last season with a wrist injury. Despite making his desire for a new deal clear, Johnson is now saying he’s not concerned with his contract.

“There are people that need to concern themselves with Johnson’s potential contract – Johnson just doesn’t want to be one of them” writes Darren Urban of AZCardinals.com. Johnson reportedly said ““I’ve heard of former players, not just Cardinals but in the league, having the stress of the contract on them and it ends up affecting their play” adding that’s what he’s seeking to avoid. “I don’t have time to think about” a contract, Johnson said. Johnson, who will be 27 this December, is a little old for a player still on his rookie deal. With the short shelf-life running backs in the league tend to have, this could be his one and only opportunity to cash in with a big contract. It makes sense why Johnson would want to wait for the best deal possible, and both sides remain optimistic something will get done. Johnson did talk a little bit about Todd Gurley‘s recent mega-extension, saying it’s “good to see running backs get deals.”

Here’s more from around the league:

  • Speaking of Gurley and running back deals, Gurley did backs like Johnson, Ezekiel Elliott, and Alvin Kamara a “huge solid” by getting his deal writes Albert Breer of SI.com. “I’m just happy to even be in a position to take the next step for us running backs” Gurley told Breer. Gurley definitely paved the way for running backs to get huge guarantees, and it will be fascinating to see how the market reacts across the league.
  •  Although many Jets fans have been worried by the team’s inability to sign Sam Darnold to his rookie contract, coach Todd Bowles isn’t concerned. “It’s part of the business” Bowles declared after practice today while explaining why Darnold’s absence from training camp isn’t a big deal. It might not be significant yet, but if Darnold misses too much more of camp it could turn into a real problem as he battles for the starting job.
  • Defensive tackle Malik McDowell has cleared waivers and has reverted to the Seahawks’ injured reserve list, according to Bob Condotta of the Seattle Times (Twitter link). McDowell was released yesterday after he was unable to ever return to health following an ATV accident last summer. McDowell, the 35th overall pick of the 2017 draft, has never played a down in the NFL and it’s unclear if there’s a chance he ever returns.

Cardinals’ David Johnson Reports To Camp

Cardinals running back David Johnson has reported to training camp, the team announced on Monday morning. It’s a big development for Arizona after Johnson opted to skip the team’s mandatory minicamp in June.

[RELATED – Extension Candidate: David Johnson]

Johnson scheduled to earn a base salary of $1.8MM in the final year of his deal. After losing the 2017 season to injury, Johnson is understandably concerned about his financial security. If Johnson were to suffer another serious injury this year, he would be left without a safety net and a fairly low floor in free agency, despite all of his past accomplishments.

By skipping minicamp, Johnson was fined more than $84K. Missing training camp would have resulted in even more substantial fines, and that’s not something Johnson wanted to mess with. Over the first three years of his career, Johnson has earned $2.3MM in salary. That’s not chump change, but the fines would have hurt him more than other players who are pushing for new deals.

Johnson was arguably the league’s best offensive player in 2016 as he racked up more than 2,100 yards from scrimmage and scored 20 touchdowns. He remains one of the NFL’s premier talents at running back, despite missing the majority of the 2017 campaign with a dislocated wrist.

The Cardinals would like to lock Johnson up, but his lost 2017 season likely complicates negotiations. The Cardinals can also afford to exercise patience thanks to the franchise tag, which would pay Johnson $11.9MM in 2019.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Extra Points: Cardinals, Cooks, Gregory, Manhertz, McCluster

Larry Fitzgerald will be back for a 15th season in Arizona, and the long-time Cardinals wideout is set to hit free agency next offseason. Of course, the future Hall of Famer can’t envision himself playing elsewhere, as he essentially told Jace Frederick of TwinCities.com that he’d hang up his cleats if he wasn’t retained by Arizona.

“If I’m not playing in Arizona, I won’t be playing anywhere,” he said. “I’ve built a good life for myself down there. Playing in the same place for 15 years is a true blessing.”

Fitzgerald is one of only two players (along with Antonio Brown) to compile 100 receptions and 1,000 receiving yards over the past three seasons. Despite turning 35 years old this fall, Fitzgerald says he isn’t slowing down.

“It doesn’t really matter about the age, it’s about what you put into it and your mind-set,” he said. “Everybody kind of takes numbers and assumes this is when it’s supposed to end. As an athlete, fortunately, you write your own script. If you still produce and you play at a high level, you kind of determine how long you want to play. If I can stay at a high level, I still keep destiny in my own hands.”

Let’s take a look at some more notes from around the NFL…

  • We learned earlier today that wideout Brandin Cooks had inked a five-year, $80MM extension with the Rams. NFL.com’s Jason La Canfora tweets that the new deal contains $20.5MM in guaranteed money and a $50.5MM injury guarantee. NFL.com’s Albert Breer clarifies (via Twitter) that the deal will actually total $81MM, with the $16.2MM average annual value trailing only Brown, Mike Evans and DeAndre Hopkins.
  • Cardinals general manager Steve Keim pleaded guilty today to extreme DUI, and the Cardinals subsequently fined and suspended the executive. Kent Somers of AZCentral tweets that there won’t be an interim general manager during Keim’s absence, as the team will ultimately divide his responsibilities. Terry McDonough will likely handle the “evaluation side,” while Mike Disner will focus on contracts and the cap. Somer adds that Keim won’t face further discipline from the NFL.
  • Meanwhile, NFL Network’s Mike Garafolo tweets that Keim’s suspension “doesn’t preclude” the Cardinals from working out a long-term deal with running back David Johnson, echoing that Disner would likely negotiate the contract. The Pro Bowler skipped mandatory minicamp last month as he looks for a raise on his $1.8MM base salary.
  • Panthers tight end Chris Manhertz will start training camp on the physically unable to perform list, reports Joseph Person of the Charlotte Observer. The 26-year-old underwent offseason surgery after suffering a Jones fracture in his left foot. The team is hopeful that Greg Olsen‘s primary backup will be ready for the start of the regular season. As Person points out, Manhertz’s absence will provide fourth-rounder Ian Thomas with an opportunity to contribute during training camp.
  • Earlier today, the NFL reinstated Cowboys defensive end Randy Gregory on a conditional basis. Naturally, after appearing in only two games over the past two seasons, the 25-year-old is excited about the prospect of returning to the NFL. “I’m very excited,” Gregory said (via the Dallas News’ Jon Machota on Twitter). “Thanks to the ones who supported me and stood by me. It’s a lot more to the story than it seems and it took me a lot to get to this point. Now I’m ready to make some plays.”
  • Former NFL running back Dexter McCluster has caught on with the Toronto Argonauts of the CFL (via CFL.ca). The 29-year-old played in six games with the Chargers during the 2016 season. During his four years with the Chiefs, McCluster compiled 662 rush yards, 1,500 receiving yards, and more than 2,000 return yards.

Extension Candidate: David Johnson

If it wasn’t previously clear, David Johnson‘s importance to the Cardinals was emphasized after he was lost to a season-ending injury back in September. The team’s offense ultimately finished with 86.6 rushing yards per game, the third-worst mark in the league, and their 3.4 yards per carry was the second-lowest average in the NFL. However, while Johnson is undoubtedly a huge part of the Cardinals’ offense, the front office may be hesitant to pay the former third-rounder top dollar.

The 26-year-old is set to earn $1.8MM in the final year of his rookie contract in 2018. While previous contract negotiations had been described as productive, Johnson surprisingly sat out the team’s mandatory minicamp last month. This may simply be an attempt by Johnson’s camp to lock up a long-term deal as soon as possible. After all, the running back is coming off a campaign that saw him appear in only a single game, and another injury could cost him some big money. Either way, Johnson’s June hold out was partly semantics; if the running back fails to report to the team by August 7th, it would delay his free agency by an entire year.

However, while negotiations may not necessarily be hostile, there’s clearly a discrepancy between the team’s offer and Johnson’s asking price (if there wasn’t, the two sides would have presumably come to an agreement by now). Joel Corry of CBSSports.com suggests that Johnson’s camp may be waiting until there’s clarity on Le’Veon Bell‘s deal with the Steelers. Previous reports indicated that Pittsburgh had offered a five-year, $60MM deal to their star running back, but Bell was seeking a contract that would equal the $17MM average annual value of teammate Antonio Brown‘s deal. If Bell gets his way (or if he does significantly better than the $60MM offer), Corry believes that “could be a game changer for Johnson.”

As things stand right now, the Cardinals seem to be in the driver’s seat thanks to the modest running back contracts that have recently been handed out. As Corry points out, the average salary of the five highest-paid running backs is south of $11MM per season. The agent also notes that Falcons running back Devonta Freeman‘s $8.25MM average salary is the current benchmark for the position. The Cardinals also have the ability to capitalize on the franchise tag, which would pay Johnson $11.9MM in 2019.

After finishing with 1,239 yards and 16 touchdowns during the 2016 season, Johnson proved that he was a foundational piece for the Cardinals. However, while both sides would presumably like to agree on a long-term contract, there’s also incentive for both sides to wait. Therefore, we shouldn’t be all that surprised if the organization and Johnson engage in a staring match for the foreseeable future.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Cardinals’ David Johnson Skipping Minicamp

Cardinals running back David Johnson is skipping this week’s mandatory minicamp, league sources tell ESPN.com’s Adam Schefter (on Twitter). Still, there have been discussions regarding a new contract and both sides are hopeful that a deal will come together. 

Johnson scheduled to earn a base salary of $1.8MM in the final year of his deal. After losing the 2017 season to injury, Johnson is understandably concerned about his financial security. If Johnson were to suffer another serious injury this year, he would be left without a safety net and a fairly low floor in free agency, despite all of his past accomplishments.

Even if Johnson gets back to his old form, the Cardinals are armed with the franchise tag, which can be used twice over. In a best case scenario, Johnson may be subject to the whim of the organization and under their control through 2020. If the Cards were to use the franchise tag on Johnson twice (a third tag would likely be too expensive to consider), he would not be in line for unrestricted free agency until the age of 29.

By skipping Tuesday’s practice, Johnson will be subject to a fine of about $14K. It then climbs to roughly $28K on Day 2, and $42K on day three. All in all, Johnson may wind up forfeiting $84K+ if he misses all three days this week. That’s chump change for many players, but that’s not necessarily the case for Johnson, who has earned just $2.3MM in salary over the first three years of his career, despite being one of the best running backs in the game.

Johnson was arguably the league’s best offensive player in 2016 as he racked up more than 2,100 yards from scrimmage and scored 20 touchdowns. He remains one of the NFL’s premier talents at running back, despite missing the majority of the 2017 campaign with a dislocated wrist.

It’s worth noting that Johnson’s lack of service time may prevent him from a prolonged standout with the Cardinals. He could drum up leverage by abstaining from practices, but staying away from the team during the regular season could cost him the games needed to bring him closer to free agency.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Extra Points: David Johnson, John Kuhn, Josh Gordon, Eagles

David Johnson has only played extensively in one of his first three seasons in the NFL. After backing up Chris Johnson as a rookie in 2015, Johnson had a record-setting sophomore season in which he rushed for 1,293 yards and racked up another 879 through the air with 20 total touchdowns. Last year, he was lost for the season after just one game. Despite the relatively small sample size, the Cardinals are committed to Johnson as the center of their offense, and appear ready to lock him up longterm.

Johnson and the Cardinals are likely to get an extension done before the season, according to Mike Garafolo of NFL Network (Twitter link). While Garafolo cautioned there’s “work to be done to get there”, he does believe it’ll get done before the season. The Cardinals clearly saw during his one season as their starter just how special of a player he can be, and want to extend him before he hits the open market at the end of this season.

Johnson reportedly has been sitting out some of the Cardinals’ OTAs with an injury, but a source told Kent Somers of the AZcentral.com that the injury is not serious. Somers added that Johnson is expected to participate in the three-day minicamp the Cardinals will hold next week.

Here’s more from around the NFL:

  • Former Packers and Saints fullback John Kuhn wants to play in 2018 and has received interest from several teams, Kuhn told Sirius XM NFL Radio (Twitter link). The longtime Packer fan-favorite said “I’m ready to give it another run, and I’ve been fielding some calls, so I’m just waiting for the right one to give this one more go.”
  • After Duke Johnson signed his new contract yesterday, Josh Gordon is the next Browns player likely to be extended, opines Tony Grossi of ESPN Cleveland. While Grossi says he’ll have to first prove to GM John Dorsey that he can stay on the field, he “can see the Browns rewarding him with a multi-year deal to head off a possible huge payday in unrestricted free agency in 2020.”
  • There’s a four-way battle for two spots among Eagles wide receivers, but Markus Wheaton and Shelton Gibson are the favorites to emerge, thinks Eliot Shorr-Parks of NJ.com. Gibson writes that Bryce Treggs and Greg Ward Jr. have impressed at OTAs, but that “it is tough to see Treggs or Ward Jr. passing either Wheaton or Gibson for a roster spot.”

Cardinals’ David Johnson Cleared By Doctors

Cardinals running back David Johnson has been given full medical clearance, according to Kent Somers of The Arizona Republic (on Twitter). He’ll be ready for Arizona’s full slate of offseason workouts.

[RELATED: Brice Butler Signs With Cardinals]

Johnson was arguably the league’s best offensive player in 2016 as he posted more than 2,100 yards from scrimmage and scored 20 total touchdowns. He remains one of the NFL’s premier talents at running back, but his health was a question mark this offseason after he missed the majority of the 2017 campaign.

Johnson told the media that he was fully healthy back in January, but new head coach Steve Wilks indicated at the owners’ meetings that he had yet to get the full green light from doctors. In recent days, Johnson got the go-ahead.

Johnson will now return to an offense spearheaded by a different veteran quarterback. Carson Palmer is gone and in his place is the talented, yet injury-prone, Sam Bradford. Should Bradford suffer another malady, the Cardinals have Mike Glennon as a backstop.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

NFC West Rumors: Seahawks, Cardinals, OBJ

The Seahawks are now without stars Richard Sherman, Michael Bennett, Jimmy Graham, and Sheldon Richardson as well as up-and-coming wide receiver Paul Richardson, but GM John Schneider is insistent that the team is not in rebuilding mode.

It’s just always very, very hard to make those decisions to move on from people, but that’s what we have to do in order to be a consistent championship-caliber football team,’’ Schneider said (via Bob Condotta of the Seattle Times). “We don’t want to be having these major rebuilding years. We want to be able to have little re-sets, if you will.”

Last year, the Seahawks went 9-7 and missed the playoffs for the first time since 2011. It certainly feels like there’s a changing of the guard in the NFC West thanks to the Rams, but Seattle will push to get back on top this year, despite the cap crunch.

Here’s more from the NFC West:

  • Cardinals’ head coach Steve Wilks said he expects doctors to clear running back David Johnson (wrist) in time to be ready for OTAs (Twitter link via Adam Schefter of ESPN.com). Johnson was arguably the league’s best offensive player in 2016 as he posted more than 2,100 yards from scrimmage and scored 20 total touchdowns.
  • The Cardinals don’t have any interest in Odell Beckham Jr., according to Mike Jurecki of 98.7 FM (on Twitter). As good as OBJ is, the Cardinals are wary of his contract situation. The wide receiver is slated to earn about $8.5MM in 2018, but he’s pushing for a new deal that would put him at the top of the market for his position. That may mean a salary of $17MM per year or more.

2018 Proven Performance Escalators

According to the NFL’s contractual bargaining agreement, players drafted in rounds three though seven are entitled to raises during the fourth year of their respective rookie contracts. The pay bumps are tied to playing time — a player must have played in 35% of his team’s offensive or defensive snaps in two of his first three seasons, or averaged 35% playing time cumulatively during that period.Jay Ajayi (Vertical)

If one of these thresholds is met, the player’s salary is elevated to the level of that year’s lowest restricted free agent tender — that figure should be around $1.908MM in 2018. Players selected in the first or second round, undrafted free agents, and kickers/punters are ineligible for the proven performance escalator.

Here are the players who will see their salary rise in 2018 courtesy of the proven performance escalator:

49ers: Trent Brown, T; Eli Harold, LB

Bears: Adrian Amos, S

Bengals: Tyler Kroft, TE; Josh Shaw, DB

Bills: John Miller, G

Broncos: Max Garcia, G; Trevor Siemian, QB

Browns: Duke Johnson, RB

Buccaneers: Kwon Alexander, LB

Cardinals: David Johnson, RB; J.J. Nelson, WR

Chargers: Kyle Emanuel, LB

Chiefs: Chris Conley, WR; Steven Nelson, CB

Colts: Henry Anderson, DE; Mark Glowinski, G; Denzelle Good, OL

Dolphins: Bobby McCain, CB

Eagles: Jay Ajayi, RB; Jordan Hicks, LB

Falcons: Grady Jarrett, DT

Jaguars: A.J. Cann, OL

Lions: Quandre Diggs, CB

Packers: Jake Ryan, LB

Panthers: Daryl Williams, T

Patriots: Trey Flowers, DE; Shaq Mason, G

Raiders: Clive Walford, TE

Rams: Jamon Brown, G

Ravens: Za’Darius Smith, LB

Redskins: T.J. Clemmings, OL; Jamison Crowder, WR

Saints: Tyeler Davison, DT

Seahawks: Tyler Lockett, WR

Steelers: Jesse James, TE

Vikings: Stefon Diggs, WR; Danielle Hunter, DE

OverTheCap.com was essential in the creation of this post. Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.