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Quest for a Ring: Potential Landing Spots for Andre Johnson
For 12 years, Andre Johnson has been the face of the Houston Texans' offense. Today marked the beginning of the end for the veteran receiver, as the Texans will part ways with him, either by trade or he will be released. Although he is 33 years old, number 80 attracts plenty of teams because he can still play. What works against him, however, is the fact that the free agent class for wide receivers is very deep (Randall Cobb and Jeremy Maclin didn't get the franchise tag, and other names such as Michael Crabtree, Torrey Smith, Reggie Wayne, and Cecil Shorts could be available). The draft class is pretty deep as well, led by Alabama's Amari Cooper and Louisville's DaVante Parker. Johnson will not get the type of contract he received in 2010 (seven years for nearly $68 million), but he will likely get a two year deal or so with a contender looking to upgrade their receiving core, or traded for a mid-round pick. Looking at his age, Johnson only has a few years left to try to capture the elusive Super Bowl ring. Let's look at some potential suitors for the soon-to-be former Texan.
Joe Flacco needs more weapons, plain and simple. With Torrey Smith not getting franchise tagged, the Ravens are left with 35 year old Steve Smith Sr., Kamar Aiken, and Marlon Brown as their top receivers (Jacoby Jones is also a free agent). The Ravens pick at number 26 in this years' draft, but will likely select a cornerback (possibly Washington's Marcus Peters) with their first pick. A trade for Johnson would help with the depth of this group, and give Flacco that reliable target to go along with Smith Sr. almost like Anquan Boldin used to be.
Green Bay Packers
Like the Ravens, Green Bay chose not to franchise tag their free agent receiver, Randall Cobb. Unlike Baltimore, however, the Packers have depth at the position. Jordy Nelson, Davante Adams, and Jarrett Boykin make for a solid group of pass catchers, however, they are lacking another veteran presence to go along with Nelson, who just got a new contract earlier this year. If Johnson were to be paired opposite number 87, then putting Adams in the slot and Boykin at four would give Rodgers loads of talent to work the ball around to. In addition to a great runner in Eddie Lacy and a serviceable tight end in Andrew Quarless, this would once again be a top five offense.
The Colts are already on record as a team looking for a veteran wide receiver. While a trade for Brandon Marshall may be a better move, it will most certainly cost them a high round draft pick. Should Johnson join this division rival, the Colts won't need to give up much in exchange (or even less, should he be released). It will also make those two meetings against Houston even more meaningful, considering they will also be likely the top two teams in the division by seasons end.
Bringing in Johnson will take some attention away from speedster T.Y. Hilton and rising start Donte Moncrief elsewhere in the offense. Andrew Luck is more than capable of spreading the ball around efficiently enough, as Reggie Wayne could possibly be moving on to another team or even consider retirement. While it's rare to see trades within the division, the Texans could let Johnson walk, and decide his next team on his own.
New England Patriots
The defending Super Bowl champions were led once again by the arm of Tom Brady. With his fourth ring, Brady ties Joe Montana's record, and makes a very compelling case of being the greatest quarterback of all time. You know Brady wants to own the record by himself, leaving little doubt who the greatest of all time truly is.
In 2014, the Patriots' starting wide receivers were Julian Edelman and Brandon LaFell - not a very scary tandem. What would be scary would be Andre Johnson lined up across from LA Fell, with Edelman in the slot, and Rob Gronkowski at tight end. Both Tom Brady and Andre Johnson would have a good chance of capturing another ring (a first for the receiver). Bill Bellicheck has a knack for acquiring veteran receivers (Randy Moss in 2007 and Chad Ochocinco in 2011), so this wouldn't be too big of a shock.
The Eagles have not franchise tagged Jeremy Maclin, which means they have until next Tuesday (the start of free agency) to sign him to a deal. While anything can happen, this is not a lot of time for them to work something out (unless Maclin and the Eagles' front office have been in talks for a while now), and a deal is not looking very likely. With the talk of a possible trade up for Marcus Mariota (I personally don't think it's a good move - nor will they actually do it), Philly wouldn't be able to draft a pass catcher in the first round. They could always sign a free agent like Crabtree or Torrey Smith, but Maclin knows the system and has thrived here.
With Maclin gone, the Eagles have Riley Cooper, Jordan Matthews, and Josh Huff as their starters. Should number 18 leave, a trade for (or signing of) Johnson would make sense. With either Nick Foles or another young passer starting for the team in 2015, they would need a veteran presence on the outside. Cooper would line up on the other side, while Matthews would start in the slot - where he would thrive.
San Francisco 49ers
Michael Crabtree will likely not return, and Colin Kaepernick needs as many reliable targets as he can get. With the 15th pick in the first round, San Fran will likely use that pick to take a receiver, maybe Dorial Green-Beckham of Oklahoma, or Jalen Strong from Arizona State. However, if they choose to select another position (defensive end, or an interior offensive lineman), then the 49ers could be in the hunt for a free agent receiver or trade for one.
Johnson would be another big bodied veteran to line up opposite of Anquan Boldin, and with Stevie Johnson at three, and Vernon Davis at tight end, Johnson would see more single coverage, which would lead to more mismatches and more opportunities for Johnson to display his ability as a dependable, playmaking wide receiver.
Since Golden Tate left in free agency, and Percy Harvin was traded last season, Seattle has been left without a true number one wideout. Doug Baldwin is no terrible by any means, but he is better served as the number two in this offense, and Jermaine Kearse is a better fit in the slot. With the 31st pick in the draft, the Seahawks could go a number of different ways. They could take an offensive lineman (Guard A.J. Cann from South Carolina or Tackle Donovan Smith form Pen State), a running back to split carries with - and eventually take over for Marshawn Lynch (Melvin Gordon from Georgia or Nebraska's Ameer Abdullah), or even a wide receiver (such as Oklahoma's Dorial Green-Beckham or Sammie Coates from Auburn). With so many choices, Seattle could realistically look for a veteran wideout in free agency.
Johnson would benefit from having one of the best young quarterbacks in the game in Russell Wilson throwing him the ball, and having Lynch, Baldwin, and Kearse attracting the defense elsewhere at the same time. In this situation, it also gives Johnson a very realistic possibility of winning his first Super Bowl, which honestly is all he wants at this point in his career.