Texans gave Andre Johnson permission to seek a trade. Told him he'd have a reduced role next season. He asked to be traded or cut instead.— John McClain (@McClain_on_NFL) March 3, 2015
Houston Texans wide receiver Andre Johnson is simply described as one of the most prolific receivers of his era.
Eras come to an end, and it appears his time in Houston is over. Houston Chronicle reporter John McClain tweeted Monday Johnson was approached about having a reduced role on the team this season, and he requested permission to seek a trade or to be released. The Texans are allowing him to look for a trade, and, according to McClain, they will release him if no trade is found.
In an attempt to get ahead of this story, no trade will be found. Johnson griped last year about the rebuilding status of the Texans, and his lack of desire to go through another organizational shift - a place he's been most of his career. The only teams who can afford Johnson's enormous salaries over the final two years of his contract ($10.5 million this year and $11 million in 2016) are teams that cannot compete right now.
If Johnson wants to win, he's better off being released and looking for something a bit more manageable.
The market for higher-end wide receivers right now is pretty solid, heading into free agency, and reports of Green Bay's Randall Cobb wanting $12 million a year are comical, but telling at the kind of demand quality receivers get in free agency. If Johnson is willing to take less, he can sign with a Super Bowl contending team fairly quickly after his release.
Naturally, the fanbases of every team in the league will concoct ways to lure the declining Johnson to their side. It's not impossible for the Steelers to do so, and given their current rising level of talent, he may even have them survive the first round of teams he'd consider.
He'd fit in nicely as an experienced X receiver opposite Antonio Brown, and packages including Markus Wheaton and Martavis Bryant would keep Todd Haley scheming for the remainder of the offseason. The Steelers offense should produce at a high level, like it did in 2014, and Johnson would only help that.
There are other quality teams with better cap positions, though.
The Indianapolis Colts can spend more cash on Johnson ($43 million in space), and pair him with an emerging T.Y. Hilton for an excellent group of receivers to go with Andrew Luck.
The defending NFC champion Seattle Seahawks have $24 million in space before any alleged extension being offered to quarterback Russell Wilson, and this is a team mostly devoid of receivers. They will be in a position to win a Super Bowl in 2015 even without Johnson but with the Packers (another tantalizing option for Johnson) rebuilding again, Johnson may be a key for either team.
It's not that the Steelers couldn't make a deal work, it's just more likely Johnson gets a better offer in terms of salary as well as contribution. Slowing down the on-field development of Bryant and Wheaton by creating another 80-100 targets for another receiver may not be in the team's best long-term interest.