Andre Johnson isn’t the same receiver he was three years ago in Houston. His dip in production has been precipitous. He is playing on his third team in two years for a veteran’s minimum ($985,000) as his base salary for this season. There is no guaranteed money or signing bonus.
The hard reality Johnson faces right now is Tennessee potentially the last stop in his NFL journey. There was no pride-induced reluctance when the Titans extended the discounted offer for the future Hall of Famer. Johnson humbly accepted the opportunity in hopes of going out on his own terms. Being cut by the Indianapolis Colts earlier this year after a forgettable 2015 season isn’t the ending Johnson wants to his legacy.
He’d much rather end things on a high note.
But is that even possible? Realistically, no one knows what to expect from Johnson at this point in his career. The Titans surely aren’t expecting him to explode for 100 catches and 1,000 receiving yards. Those days are likely long gone for the 35-year-old wideout.
Consistency is really what the Titans are looking for at the position. It’s the reason Dorial Green-Beckham is now wearing an Eagles journey after only one year with the team. If Johnson can be consistent, there is no reason why he shouldn’t see the field and be a big time contributor.
“Well, he’s making some plays,” Titans head coach Mike Mularkey told NBC Sports. “He came right in here and picked it up, picked up the system very quickly. Threw a lot at him and really in a night of about an hour of being here, came in the next practice and looked like he had been here forever. He’s still very much of a threat; he believes he is, and that’s a lot of it. He gets out here, and he hasn’t missed a beat. He hasn’t taken a practice off, he hasn’t asked to, and I’ve told him to try and slow down a little bit, but he’s still going at a high level.”
Johnson caught a team-high of three passes for 65 yards in Saturday’s preseason game against the Oakland Raiders. That kind of production would ensure that he gets more quality reps in a receiving unit filled with young playmakers such as Tajae Sharpe, Rishard Matthews and Kendall Wright. Justin Hunter should factor into the mix as well-if he can get his act together. Veteran receiver Harry Douglas should also see the field at some point.
The situation in Tennessee, particularly on the offensive side of the ball, is much more stable that it was in Indy for Johnson. A plethora of injuries had him starting the season with quarterback Andrew Luck and finishing with Matt Hasselbeck, Charlie Whitehurst, Josh Freeman and Ryan Lindley. The running game was pretty much non-existent, and the offensive line struggled all year long.
While the Titans haven’t necessarily been the model franchise in the division, general manager Jon Robinson has done some great things in his first year with the team. There’s a two-headed monster at running back with DeMarco Murray and Derrick Henry, and the offensive line play has looked promising. And then there’s cadre of able-bodied receivers, including Pro Bowl tight end Delanie Walker.
For the first time in Johnson’s career, he isn’t expected to come in and help carry a team. All he has to do is contribute.
That should be simple enough.