David Johnson (RB)

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.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

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.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

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.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

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.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

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.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

West Notes: Cards, Mahomes, Jacobs, 49ers

David Johnson‘s usage this season has irked numerous fantasy owners, along with Johnson himself. The fifth-year running back has stayed off the Cardinals‘ injury report for weeks but has taken a backseat to trade acquisition Kenyan Drake. This pattern (and explanation for it) has not sat well with Johnson, per Josh Weinfuss of ESPN.com (on Twitter). The $13MM-AAV back declined to address his future with the team but was not satisfied with the reason Arizona’s coaching staff gave him for his significant workload reduction (Twitter links).

Ankle and back maladies sidelined Johnson earlier in the year, but he’s been active for four straight games, seeing 12 total carries in that span. Although Johnson’s 366 receiving yards still have him on pace to eclipse his 2018 total, he is averaging less than four yards per carry for a second straight season. The three-year, $39MM deal Johnson signed in 2018 runs through 2021. The soon-to-be 28-year-old back’s $10.2MM 2020 base salary is fully guaranteed.

Let’s take a look at the latest from several other teams in the West divisions, starting with the status of the Chiefs’ most important player.

  • The bruised throwing hand Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes suffered did not turn out to be a significant issue. Mahomes, who said Sunday night his hand “didn’t feel great,” returned to full practice Wednesday. The reigning MVP said (via ESPN.com’s Adam Teicher) Wednesday was the first day he could grip the football, but he’s expected to suit up against the Broncos. Mahomes has battled a sprained ankle and a dislocated kneecap but has missed just two games.
  • An MRI Josh Jacobs underwent produced good news for the Raiders running back. The offensive rookie of the year candidate is expected to play against the Jaguars on Sunday, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets. Jon Gruden, however, did not commit to the first-round pick playing in Week 15. Jacobs missed Week 14 with a shoulder malady he’s been battling, giving way to free agent-to-be DeAndre Washington.
  • Extensions for cornerstone 49ers DeForest Buckner and George Kittle will take precedence over retaining contract-year breakout defender Arik Armstead, Matt Maiocco of NBC Sports Bay Area writes. Armstead has been dominant in his fifth season, leading the 49ers with 10 sacks, but was inconsistent in his prior four seasons. With Armstead playing more at defensive end than D-tackle, it would cost them nearly $18MM to use the franchise tag. The 49ers tabled Buckner extension talks until 2020 and can begin negotiating with Kittle in January. The team is projected to hold $24MM in cap space — 25th-most in the league.
  • In addition to the ACL tear Rashaad Penny suffered in Week 14, Pete Carroll noted the second-year running back may have sustained more damage in his injured knee, per Brady Henderson of ESPN.com. The Seahawks running back’s upcoming surgery will provide more clarity on his timetable.

Injury Updates: Bengals, Vikes, Cards, Jets

Bengals wide receiver A.J. Green had been expected to return to game action in Week 10 against the Ravens, and head coach Zac Taylor even confirmed as much this morning, per Paul Dehner of The Athletic (Twitter link). However, Green didn’t practice Wednesday after experiencing ankle swelling during Cincinnati’s walkthrough and is now considered day-to-day, tweets Tom Pelissero of NFL.com, so it’s unclear if Green will still be ready for Baltimore. Green hasn’t played a single snap this year after suffering ankle damage during the preseason. When he does return, he’ll be catching passes from a new quarterback (rookie Ryan Finley) as he makes his case for an extension.

Here’s more on the injury front:

  • Adam Thielen returned to action last Sunday following a hamstring injury-induced absence and quickly re-aggravated the ailment, but Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer disputes that Thielen came back too quickly, tweets Chris Tomasson of the Pioneer Press. While it’s not apparent if Thielen will play against the Cowboys in Week 10, it doesn’t appear the veteran wideout is dealing with a long-term injury. Minnesota faces Denver in Week 11 before heading to its bye, so the Vikings could conceivably take an overly-cautious approach and hold Thielen out until Week 13, although that could be difficult to do given the tight NFC playoff race.
  • Cardinals running back David Johnson has missed the past two games with back and ankle injuries, but he says he’ll “definitely” be playing when Arizona faces off with Tampa Bay this week, per Kyle Odegard of AZCardinals.com (Twitter link). With both Johnson and backup Chase Edmonds facing health questions, the Cardinals shipped a conditional sixth-round pick to the Dolphins for Kenyan Drake, who proceeded to rush for 110 yards against the 49ers in Week 9.
  • Le’Veon Bell did not suffer any structural damage to his knee in the fourth quarter of a Week 9 loss to the Dolphins, reports Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News. While Bell didn’t practice on Wednesday, he is expected to be ready when the Jets face the Colts on Sunday. Gang Green did promote running back Josh Adams from its practice squad earlier this week, but that move was likely executed as a fail-safe against a possible Bell absence.
  • Colts quarterback Jacoby Brissett left Week 9 after incurring a left MCL strain, but he was able to practice on a limited basis on Wednesday, according to Mike Wells of ESPN.com. That news should at least give Brissett a chance to play against the Dolphins on Sunday, although head coach Frank Reich noted it’s not a “slam dunk” that Brissett is available. Indianapolis would turn to veteran backup Brian Hoyer in Brissett’s absence.

Injury Updates: Packers, Adams, Cardinals

No surprise here, but Davante Adams will miss another game this week, per the Packers‘ final injury report. This marks the wide receiver’s third-straight missed contest as he rehabs from a toe ailment.

Adams had a strong start to the season with 25 receptions for 378 yards before going down and seemed on his way to matching last year’s 111/1,386 posting. The Packers were able to get past the Lions without him and they’ll aim to do the same against the Raiders.

Here’s the latest on other bumps and bruises from around the NFL:

  • Uh oh – Cardinals running back David Johnson is dealing with a new injury. After tweaking his back against Atlanta, Johnson will be a game time decision thanks to a sore ankle, head coach Kliff Kingsbury told reporters.
  • The Cowboys will have offensive tackles Tyron Smith and La’el Collins, wide receivers Amari Cooper and Randall Cobb, and cornerback Byron Jones are set to play on Sunday against the Eagles, as Todd Archer of ESPN.com tweets. All five are listed as questionable for the game, but they took the practice field and Friday and should be good to go.
  • The Eagles, on the other hand, will try to fly without: linebacker Nigel Bradham (ankle), wide receiver DeSean Jackson (abdomen), defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan (foot), cornerback Avonte Maddox (concussion/neck), tackle Jason Peters (knee), and running back Darren Sproles (quadricep).
  • Wide receiver Kenny Stills is set to return on Sunday against the Colts, per the club’s injury report.

NFC Notes: Rosen, Kittle, Newton

Amidst a deluge of trade speculation concerning second-year QB Josh Rosen, the Cardinals opted against making Rosen available to the media last week. But Rosen himself spoke to SI.TV (video link) about his uncertain status with the club, and while he did not disparage Arizona, he certainly sounded frustrated. He said, “I definitely understand the situation. I mean, it’s annoying but, like, it is what it is. Football’s a business, and I definitely respect the higher-ups and their decisions. . . . Whatever decisions are made, it’s my duty to prove them right if they keep me, and prove them wrong if they ship me off” (h/t Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk).

Now for more from around the NFC:

  • Regardless of who the Cardinals‘ QB is in 2019, RB David Johnson will be getting a ton of touches, both in terms of carries and as a receiver. Johnson said (via Bob McManaman of the Arizona Republic), “[m]y role this upcoming season, from talking to the coaches, is that I’m going to hopefully get the ball a little bit more.” New head coach Kliff Kingsbury recently said he will build his offense around Johnson, who will be asked to earn every penny of the big-money extension he inked last September. Assuming he can remain healthy, Johnson should be able to tally at least 1,800 all-purpose yards.
  • 49ers tight end George Kittle posted a whopping 1,377 receiving yards last year, and as Matt Barrows of The Athletic (subscription required) writes, Kittle recorded 797 of those yards while injured. Barrows reports that Kittle suffered fractured cartilage in his rib cage early in the team’s Week 9 win over the Raiders, and that he wore two large rib protectors for the rest of the season. It sounds as if Kittle is (or will be) fully-recovered, and he is prepared to build on his monster 2018 campaign.
  • Panthers head coach Ron Rivera said QB Cam Newton has gotten a lot of his range of motion back, and while Newton hasn’t resumed throwing yet, that time is coming (via Jourdan Rodrigue of the Charlotte Observer). However, Rivera stopped shy of giving a timetable for Newton’s return.
  • As Rodrigue writes, the Panthers have been taking a look at this year’s collegiate passers, which has sparked some concern about Newton’s status. But Rivera and GM Marty Hurney downplayed the meaning of their QB scouting, and Rivera said, “I don’t think we’ve spent any more time on quarterbacks (this year) than we have in the past.” Rodrigue says the club remains optimistic about Newton’s progress, and while the Panthers could select a quarterback if the right player falls to them, they are not going to reach for one, and they are going to keep their focus on reviving the pass rush and bolstering the O-line.
  • Yesterday, Cowboys executive vice president Stephen Jones confirmed that the club will be exercising Ezekiel Elliott‘s fifth-year option, and as Josh Alper of Pro Football Talk writes, Jones also said that he will “obviously” be looking for a strong backup for Elliott. Rod Smith was the team’s No. 2 RB last year, but he is still a free agent, and it sounds as though Dallas wants an upgrade. The Cowboys are unlikely to invest a high-level draft choice on an RB given that Elliott will get the lion’s share of the touches, but a quality Day 3 prospect could be in the mix.