David Johnson (RB)

Saints Bump David Johnson To Active Roster

NOVEMBER 19: Johnson could soon see game action. Three days after adding him on a practice squad deal, the Saints are promoting the veteran running back to their active roster. Johnson has not played since last season.

NOVEMBER 16: Five months after visiting the Saints, David Johnson reached an agreement with the team. The former All-Pro running back will join New Orleans’ practice squad Wednesday, Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com tweets.

This move comes shortly after the Saints released Jordan Howard and Derrick Gore from their 16-man P-squad. Johnson, 30, met with the team in mid-June. While the sides could not agree on terms at that point, the former Cardinals and Texans back will settle for a practice squad spot months later.

Despite Johnson’s experience and somewhat distant past as an All-Pro-caliber producer, he was not connected to any other teams this offseason. He played out his contract with the Texans last season, after agreeing to rework it, and took his time in free agency. Johnson’s price was too high for the Saints in June, leading to him spending the season’s first half without a team.

The former third-round pick, however, has done very well for himself on the contract front. He parlayed a dominant 2016 slate (2,118 scrimmage yards, 20 touchdowns) into a three-year, $39MM Cardinals extension ahead of the 2018 season. The Cardinals included him in 2020’s DeAndre Hopkins trade, and while the Texans adjusted his deal, Johnson still locked in $4.25MM guaranteed in 2021.

Johnson has not come especially close to replicating that monster sophomore slate. A wrist injury knocked him out for almost all of the 2017 campaign, and by the time he returned in 2018, Bruce Arians had retired and the Cards suddenly sported the league’s worst offense. The Northern Iowa product missed eight games during his Texans stay, again becoming part of a rebuilding situation. After totaling 1,005 scrimmage yards as Houston’s featured back in 2020, Johnson took a backseat last season, when he finished with 453 yards on just 99 touches.

When Johnson visited the Saints this summer, speculation swirled about the team needing more insurance alongside Mark Ingram — Johnson’s ex-Texans teammate — against a potential Alvin Kamara suspension. Arrested in Las Vegas in connection with an alleged assault, Kamara has seen his hearing continually delayed. It has since been tabled again, according to WDSU’s Fletcher Mackel (on Twitter). The perennial Pro Bowl back is next scheduled to appear in court Jan. 23, seemingly putting him in the clear of a suspension sidelining him this season.

The Saints have been on the lookout for backs this week. Prior to this Johnson addition, they tried to claim Eno Benjamin on waivers, ESPN.com’s Field Yates tweets. They joined the Chiefs and Seahawks in doing so. Instead, Benjamin — a Cardinals draftee a month after the Johnson trade — will traverse the Johnson path, going from Arizona to Houston.

Saints Sign Malcolm Brown, Nick Martin

With an Alvin Kamara suspension in play for 2022, the Saints have been looking at veteran running backs. They added one to their mix Tuesday.

The Saints added former Rams and Dolphins back Malcolm Brown, doing so on a day in which they also signed center Nick Martin. The Brown addition comes after a fairly thorough look into the position this offseason, while Martin — after five years with the Texans and one with the Raiders — should be expected to compete for a backup job.

New Orleans brought in both Sony Michel and David Johnson this year, while also auditioning USFL Offensive Player of the Year Darius Victor. Johnson is believed to have come with too high a price tag for the Saints, per NFL.com’s Jane Slater (video link). The Michel workout also came just before the former Patriots and Rams starter signed with the Dolphins, who opted to let Brown walk as they transitioned to a new coaching staff.

Although Mark Ingram is positioned to be Kamara’s top backup, Slater adds the Saints would not plan to use the 33-year-old as a full-timer at this stage of his career. Brown coming in provides insurance, with a Kamara suspension — for a February brawl in Las Vegas that led to an arrest and a civil lawsuit — potentially coming down this season. A Kamara ban would obviously make a significant impact on the Saints’ offense, judging by how it looked last season when the Pro Bowl back missed time, but Brown does provide a potential upgrade alongside Ingram.

Brown, 29, suffered a quadriceps injury last season; he played just seven games during his short Dolphins tenure. While Brown rushed for just 125 yards in 2021, he gained 419 and scored five touchdowns as part of a 2020 Rams committee. The former Todd Gurley backup also held regular special teams roles in Los Angeles, giving him a potential boost to make New Orleans’ 53-man roster. The Saints also have veteran special-teamer Dwayne Washington, recent signing Devine Ozigbo and third-year back Tony Jones on their 90-man offseason roster.

Martin, also 29, worked as Houston’s full-time starting center from 2017-20, earning an extension in that time. Despite missing his entire rookie season, Martin has proven durable since. He has not missed a game since 2017, when he was sidelined for two, and has 62 career starts. The former second-round pick, however, did not start a game for the Raiders in 2021, and lingered in free agency for months. He joins Forrest Lamp and Josh Andrews as notable Saints interior O-line depth. The team’s inside trio of Andrus Peat, Erik McCoy and Cesar Ruiz is set.

The Saints also signed defensive end Scott Patchan and waived punter Daniel Whelan, offensive lineman Derek Schweiger and cornerback Jordan Miller on Tuesday.

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.