News broke yesterday that 11-year veteran wide receiver Andre Johnson is not a happy camper in Houston.
Johnson, who turns 33 in July, has played his entire career with the Texans and easily qualifies as the best player in the franchise’s 12-year history*. Johnson toiled away for bad-to-mediocre teams before finally breaking into the playoffs in 2011 for a 10-6 Texans team. That team won a playoff game but bowed out in the divisional round. In 2012 the Texans were even better, going 12-4 and winning their division, but they once again won one playoff game and exited in the divisional round.
*Although J.J. Watt will likely claim that title before his career is over
You probably all know how last season went for the Texans went. The team seemingly picked up where they left off by starting 2-0. Then the wheels came off, with quarterback Matt Schaub suffering a meltdown and Gary Kubiak getting canned just weeks after suffering a mini-stroke on the field, all while the Texans lost the last 14 games of their season.
Now the Texans have a new coach in Bill O’Brien and a new no. 1 overall pick in Jadeveon Clowney. Still, Johnson doesn’t seem interested in being around while the Texans rebuild.
Which led to my tweet yesterday.
And yes, I'm totally on board with the idea of the Rams trading for Andre Johnson. I don't care if it's unrealistic.
— Spencer Engel (@Cover32Engel) May 13, 2014
I fired that off without doing any research on the salary cap ramifications. Whoops.
Turns out an Andre Johnson trade would not only be cost-prohibitive to the Texans, who would have to absorb a whopping $11.96 million in dead money on their 2014 cap and would only save $3.68 million on their cap, it would also require a $15.64 million investment from the team acquiring Johnson. Johnson is also due more than $30 million in 2015 and 2016 on his current contract, although like most NFL contracts, it’s very unlikely Johnson will ever see that money.
The Texans can cut Johnson next season and save $8.825 million on their cap. They’ll still absorb about $7.3 million in dead money in that scenario, but that ratio is much more friendly than the aforementioned $3.68 million savings to $11.96 million dead money ratio.
So the prospect of trading or cutting Johnson is already a pretty unlikely scenario just on the Texans’ side of things. It seems exceedingly likely that Johnson will play in Houston this season, get cut after the season, and then be free to pick a contender with whom to chase that elusive Super Bowl ring.
But let’s continue with this trade scenario just for fun by looking at the Rams’ cap situation.
The Rams have only $5,712,692 in cap space right now. That figure assumes all the Rams’ rookies (including Greg Reid and T.J. Moe) make the minimum of $420,000. Obviously, this number will shift around a bit as players get released and as the higher draft picks – namely Greg Robinson and Aaron Donald – sign their rookie contracts. But either way, that number – $5.7 million – is a give-or-take estimate of what the Rams’ cap space number will be.
All this is to say that the Rams will have to make some serious personnel moves if they even want to think about bringing in Johnson. These potential moves are outlined below.
- Defensive tackle Kendall Langford, who makes $6 million this season, is an obvious cap casualty candidate now that the Rams have selected Donald in the first round. Cutting Langford would save the Rams $4 million in cap space.
- Center Scott Wells makes $6.5 million this season. He’s already 33 years old, is injury prone, and conceivably be replaced by either Barrett Jones or Tim Barnes – both of whom are much younger and cheaper. Cutting Wells would save the Rams $4.5 million in cap money.
- Wide receiver Austin Pettis is in the final year of his rookie contract and will make $1.575 million. Cutting him will save $1.431 million in cap space and clear a roster spot for Johnson.
- Most importantly, the Rams would have to part with a pretty precious draft pick. Most likely a 2015 second-rounder according to many reports.
Honestly, I think most Rams fans would be OK with saying farewell to Langford, Wells and Pettis. Those guys are useful players at times, but if the Rams can save $10 million in cap space (and only take on about $4.1 million in dead money) by cutting those three, that’s a pretty great deal.
What’s painful is giving up the draft pick.
As much as I like the idea of the Rams acquiring an actual dependable, no. 1 receiver for the first time since…2006 Torry Holt maybe?…it’s kind of tough to stomach the idea of giving up a second-rounder for an aging veteran in Johnson. Especially when that move would also require cutting three guys who provide valuable depth.
In conclusion, The Rams acquiring Johnson is an awesome idea in theory but much more difficult in practice. One of these days (or years, or decades…) the Rams will get that no. 1 receiver they’ve long coveted. But for now, we’ll all have to be patient.