David Johnson (RB)

RB David Johnson Won’t Sign With Saints

David Johnson ultimately left New Orleans without a deal. After working out for the Saints earlier this week, the veteran running back announced on Twitter that he won’t be signing with the team.

[RELATED: Saints To Meet With RB David Johnson]

“Unfortunate, we couldn’t come to terms,” Johnson wrote. “[B]ut appreciate the Saints for the opportunity! Journey to be continued.”

Johnson participated in the Saints minicamp this week on a tryout basis. New Orleans has Alvin Kamara and Mark Ingram atop their depth chart, but there are some questions marks surrounding the duo (Kamara was arrested in February, while Ingram is entering his age-33 season). Johnson could theoretically be an upgrade on the likes of holdovers Tony Jones and Dwayne Washington. At the very least, he’d provide some extra depth if the team does have to play without one of their top-two backs.

Based on Johnson’s tweet, it sounds like a deal may have fallen apart due to contractual disagreements. Considering the Saints tight cap situation, they probably weren’t looking to guarantee much money until the veteran secured a spot on the roster. On the flip side, considering Johnson’s resume, it’d be hard to envision the RB not taking a definitive role.

Of course, Johnson can’t be too picky considering he remains unsigned in June. While the running back hasn’t come close to matching his 2,118-yards-from-scrimmage campaign in 2016, Johnson has proven to be a serviceable back when he’s able to take the field. He topped 1,000 yards from scrimmage as recently as 2020 with the Texans, and while he was limited to a backup role in 2021 (and saw his averages drop across the board), he still managed to top 400 yards from scrimmage while hauling in 32 of his 42 targets.

Saints To Meet With RB David Johnson

David Johnson‘s first free agency foray has been quiet, but the seven-year veteran running back will make his first offseason visit. The Saints are set to host the former Cardinals and Texans starter Monday, Nick Underhill of NewOrleans.football tweets.

New Orleans has Alvin Kamara and Mark Ingram under contract, but the former was arrested in February and the latter is going into his age-33 season. The Saints are otherwise thin in the backfield, and Johnson is one of the better options available.

While Johnson’s past five seasons have not come especially close to his monster 2016 showing, the veteran back has done well for himself. The Cardinals gave their third-round find a three-year, $39MM extension in 2018, and the Northern Iowa alum played out that contract with the Texans.

Beyond that All-Pro sophomore slate, injuries and his inclusion in 2020’s DeAndre Hopkins trade — a widely panned deal that sent Johnson and two draft choices to Houston for the perennial Pro Bowl wideout — has defined Johnson’s career. But he delivered stretches of productivity in Houston. In 2020, Johnson totaled 1,005 scrimmage yards in 12 games, averaging 4.7 yards per carry. The Texans brought him back on a restructured deal last year but minimized his role. Johnson started just four games and amassed only 453 scrimmage yards, ceding time to some of the newcomers in Houston’s unusually assembled, veteran-filled backfield.

Johnson, 30, suffered a wrist injury that ended his 2017 season after one game. Although he did not clear 1,000 yards rushing upon return in 2018, the 940 he did compile marked somewhat of an achievement due to the Cardinals’ offensive nosedive that year. Still, nothing Johnson has done comes close to his 2016 year under Bruce Arians, one that featured 2,118 scrimmage yards and 20 touchdowns — both figures leading the league.

The Saints did not draft a running back, but they do have holdovers Tony Jones and Dwayne Washington still rostered. A 2020 UDFA, Jones missed time due to injury last season but only averaged 2.6 yards per carry (on 54 totes) in the games he played. The Saints re-signed Washington, who has been a key special-teamer with the franchise since 2018, this offseason.

Kamara was charged with battery resulting in substantial bodily harm in connection with a Las Vegas incident. The sixth-year star could face a 2022 suspension. Ingram, Johnson’s Texans teammate for a stretch in 2021, stands to be Kamara’s backup on a $1.5MM base salary.

Minor NFL Transactions: 12/12/21

Here are today’s minor moves:

Houston Texans

Washington Football Team

WFT has played its way back into the NFC playoff picture, but the team has now placed three DEs on the reserve/COVID-19 list this week, including Montez Sweat. The club’s front seven depth will be seriously tested in its key matchup with the Cowboys this afternoon.

Mark Ingram Could Be ‘Odd Man Out’ W/ Texans RBs?

Mark Ingram signed a one-year deal worth “up to” $3MM with the Texans back in March, but he’s apparently not guaranteed to make the team.

Houston has been busy beefing up their running backs room, and they just signed Rex Burkhead last month. It’s now “unlikely” that the team will keep all of Ingram, Burkhead, David Johnson, and Phillip Lindsay, Sarah Barshop of ESPN.com writes. Since she notes the Texans just restructured Johnson’s contract this offseason which gave him more guaranteed money for 2021, Barshop says he’ll “probably make the team”

That could make Ingram the “odd man out.” Ingram got a $500K signing bonus from Houston, but it sounds like they might end up eating that. Lindsay is only 26 and has shown plenty of flashes with the Broncos, so his spot on a rebuilding team that needs younger guys should be assured.

That likely means Ingram and Burkhead will be battling it out for one roster spot, so either way it seems as if one well-known veteran will be getting the axe. Ingram will turn 32 in December and had a down year last season, but was a Pro Bowler as recently as 2019.

He spent the first eight years of his career with the Saints before ending up in Baltimore for the last two. Burkhead turned 31 last week and spent the past four seasons in a part-time role with the Patriots.

Texans, David Johnson Agree To New Deal

Despite Houston hiring a new GM, it will retain its starting running back. David Johnson will remain with the Texans for the 2021 season, agreeing to a new one-year deal on Tuesday.

Johnson’s new contract will lower his cap number, with Ian Rapoport of NFL.com reporting the six-year veteran will receive $4.25MM fully guaranteed and could earn up to $6MM in 2021 (Twitter link). This comes shortly after a report indicated the Texans were interested in retaining Johnson at a reduced rate.

The 29-year-old back was due $7.95MM in base salary next season, but just $2.1MM of that was guaranteed. In exchange for reducing his salary, Johnson will double his guaranteed money. The former Cardinals third-round pick remains signed through the 2021 season.

This will allow Johnson to avoid what could be a grim free agency market for non-big-ticket veterans. Previous Texans GM Bill O’Brien made Johnson the centerpiece of the widely panned DeAndre Hopkins trade, which included the running back and a second-round pick coming back to Houston for the All-Pro receiver. While Johnson was an All-Pro in 2016, he has not maintained that form. However, Johnson did surpass 1,000 scrimmage yards in just 12 games in his debut Texans season.

The Texans adding a back would make sense, with the team having released Duke Johnson last week. But David Johnson will factor into Houston’s backfield equation in the new Texans regime’s first season.

Texans Want To Adjust David Johnson’s Deal

While Duke Johnson is out of the Texans’ 2021 picture, they still have David Johnson under contract. And the former All-Pro’s cap number is down nearly $3MM from where it was in 2020.

However, the Texans still want to reduce their starter’s cap number, Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle notes. Entering the final season of his Cardinals-constructed contract, Johnson is set to count $8.5MM against the Texans’ 2021 cap. That number is sixth among running backs.

The Texans made David Johnson the centerpiece of a trade most observers immediately criticized, when they acquired him in a deal that sent DeAndre Hopkins to the Cards. But Nick Caserio obviously was not involved in that controversial swap. The new GM has already cut several starters or key contributions — including Duke Johnson, Nick Martin and J.J. Watt — so seeing the Texans attempt to save $6MM-plus by cutting David Johnson would be especially surprising.

In his first Texans season, David Johnson amassed 1,005 scrimmage yards in 12 games. Johnson, who spent time on IR because of a concussion, also upped his per-carry average from 3.7 in his final Arizona season to 4.7 in 2020. Despite entering the NFL in 2015, Johnson will turn 30 this year.

The six-year veteran has $2.1MM guaranteed left on his contract and would be interested in staying with the Texans for a second season, per Wilson. He may need to agree to a pay cut to do so, though the parties could agree to an extension that would reduce his 2021 cap figure.

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.

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.

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.