Andre Johnson’s best days in the NFL are behind him. The 35-year-old receiver has found a home for the 2016 season, however, singing a deal with the Tennessee Titans. It is a move that should benefit the Titans, even if Johnson is not the stud on the field that people became accustomed to from his days with the Houston Texans.
Last year Johnson had a season to remember in his only season as a member of the Indianapolis Colts. He was viewed as being washed up and done. The former star receiver only eclipsed 500 yards by three, and he was not the guy the Colts were looking for when they signed him. That led to his being available once again this off-season.
But the Titans are bringing him in for a reason other than just producing on the field. He is going to provide the Titans with a veteran presence who can serve the role of mentor for the plethora of young wide receivers on the team. As things stand, Johnson may very well be one of the team’s starters. And anything he produces on the field will be a bonus.
Before the signing, the team had six young receivers, all of whom are waiting to have their first break out season. And all of them have been missing one major factor in their careers, and that is a role model to look up to. That will now change, as Johnson has six years in the NFL under his belt, some of which he was considered a top three wideout in the entire league.
Kendall Wright is a former first rounder who has spent his entire career with the Titans. He has had his ups and downs and is seen as the team’s top wide receiver by some. The skills are certainly there, but Wright has never been able to put it all together. Enter Johnson, who can help Wright work on being more consistent week in and week out.
Justin Hunter is another guy who was drafted high, 34th overall in 2013. He has yet to prove himself however for the Titans. He is in desperate need of a mentor, as he has never really had one in his career in Tennessee. Kendall Wright has been the team’s top option his Hunter has been in town, so the addition of Johnson may give Hunter a missing piece to the puzzle. He has the talent, but now he finally needs to prove he is worth keeping around.
Dorial Green-Beckham is a highly talented player who enters his second season. He was also a Titans second round pick. So you see a theme developing here. The Titans have yet another high draft pick that has yet to be on a team with a true veteran leader. Green-Beckham had some off the field issues while in college, so giving him someone that can keep him in line should be beneficial. He is probably the most talented receiver on the team and is the one who could break out big time with the addition of Johnson if his leadership is appreciated by Green-Beckham.
Also on the team are Harry Douglas, Richard Matthews, and rookie Tajae Sharpe. Douglas spent most of his career in Atlanta and is likely at the bottom of the totem poll. He can provide a solid addition in the return game, which is where I would expect him to make his presence felt. Matthews was fairly solid for Miami last season and showed he could be a capable NFL receivers. Sharpe likely won’t be in the mix much this season, but he will have the benefit of having that big name veteran on his team during his rookie season; a luxury the first three guys did not have.
But it will not just be the receivers who benefit from having Johnson in the fold. Marcus Mariota has the talent to develop into a top quarterback in the league. He enters his second season on a young team that he is expected to lead and be the face of. That is a lot of pressure for a young quarterback. But some of that pressure has just been lifted off his shoulders. Johnson will command respect in that young locker room, and instantly become a leader.
So the relationship between the two will be integral. Johnson will be the leader in the wide receivers meetings. If he and Mariota are on the same page, his relationship with the whole crew should grow. The talent is there for a solid passing game down the line, and Johnson adds the experience that was missing.
DeMarco Murray was the leading veteran heading into training camp as a skill player. But that was not going to help the passing game take the next step. That is what makes the Johnson addition a solid move. He does not have to be a total difference maker on the field. Leave that to Wright, Green-Beckham and Matthews. Johnson just needs to show these guys the small things that they have been missing in their careers.