The Tennessee Titans desperately needed help at wide receiver this offseason. But the team never addressed that need via free agency, and they took only one receiver in the 2016 NFL Draft. Granted, that draft pick, fifth-round selection Tajae Sharpe, has looked very good so far. But the Titans still didn’t have enough depth at the position and had very little overall experience there either.
So in their desperation, the Titans turned to a one-time enemy.
The Titans signed long-time Houston Texan wide receiver Andre Johnson to a two-year, $3.75 million contract last week, making it his third stop inside the AFC South. He spent 12 seasons in Houston and spent last year in Indianapolis. But it’s those years with the Texans that Titans fans remember most.
Johnson has played in more games (24) against the Titans than he has any other opponent. And in those 24 games, he has 127 catches for 1,535 yards and 11 touchdowns. His 11 scores against Tennessee are the most he has against any one team.
Oh yeah, and there’s that time he got into a fight with Titans’ cornerback Cortland Finnegan on the field.
But the NFL is a business, after all. He isn’t the first player to join a rival team, nor will he be the last. But it’s not just the weirdness of seeing him in Titans two-toned blue. It’s the fact that he is at the lowest point in his career and seems to have very little left in the tank.
Upon further inspection, however, even Johnson’s worst season of his career last year would’ve put him as one as the better wide receivers on Tennessee’s roster.
He had career-lows in almost every major receiving category last season. Excluding 2011 when Johnson played just seven games, he put up career-lows in receptions (41), yards (503), and first down catches (31). He had trouble getting separation, and the downward spiral had begun.
Those numbers, even though they’re lackluster, would still make Johnson the second-best overall receiver on the Titans last year.
Johnson’s 41 receptions would’ve been the highest total among wide receivers on Tennessee’s roster last year. His 503 yards would’ve put him second behind Dorial Green-Beckham’s 549 yards. His four touchdown grabs would’ve tied Green-Beckham’s total for most among Titan’s wide receivers, and his 31 first down catches would’ve been the most among Tennessee’s wide receivers.
Not to mention how team-friendly his deal is for the Titans.
Johnson is set to only make the veteran minimum in 2016, which means the Titans only have to dish out $985,000 to him. And none of that is guaranteed. In fact, none of his contract is guaranteed, meaning the Titans can cut ties with him at any point and not receive a penalty.
So the Titans added a veteran receiver with little risk to their finances or future of the team. That’s about as win-win as you get.
Tennessee’s wide receivers were mediocre at best last year. If not for tight end Delanie Walker’s extremely strong 2015 campaign, the Titans’ passing game would’ve been abysmal last season. Johnson may not add a ton in terms of production to the unit in 2016, but he’s a great deal for the team and he should provide more than what the Titans have received from their wide receivers last season.
He may seem like an odd fit, but Johnson makes sense on the Titans’ roster.