Less than a week after Arian Foster waved farewell to the NFL, another former Texans luminary is calling it quits.
Currently in Tennessee, the 35-year-old Johnson spent last season with the Colts after 12 sensational campaigns with the Texans, who made him the third overall pick of the 2003 NFL Draft out of the University of Miami.
The most important and accomplished player in Texans history, Johnson finishes his celebrated career with a whopping 1,062 regular-season catches for 14,185 yards and 70 touchdowns.
His seven 1,000-yard campaigns are three more than Buffalo’s Andre Reed, who was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2014. Voting for the Hall is often dubious, but Johnson deserves to be seen as a plug-and-play entry for Canton.
A massive-bodied, 6-foot-3, 219-pound lead pass-catcher with the requisite speed, hand strength and physical traits to shred opposing cornerbacks, Johnson was a constant starry presence on a Texans squad that struggled to pair him with a premier quarterback.
Following David Carr’s run in Houston, the Texans matched Johnson with the likes of Tony Banks, Dave Ragone, Sage Rosenfels, Matt Leinart, T.J. Yates and Case Keenum. Some of his best years came with a younger Matt Schaub, who tossed the ball during four of Johnson’s seven 1,000-yard seasons.
Johnson was a non-factor last season with the Colts and buried on the roster this autumn in Tennessee, with just nine catches for 85 yards and two scores — with all of it coming prior to Week 6.
Johnson returned this season to prove that he could outshine last year’s numbers with the Colts and “worked like crazy to get back with the Tennessee Titans and try to find a way into their rotation at receiver,” NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport said Monday on NFL Network’s Good Morning Football.
The veteran, though, saw his snaps wither away and “it was time for Andre Johnson to step away — there was nothing left to prove,” Rapoport said. “It was just a matter of when he was going to do it.”
Former Texans general manager Charley Casserly made the call to draft Johnson in 2003 and gushed over the wideout during a Monday morning conversation with NFL Network.
“There’s not many players, when you draft them — even when you draft them high — that you figure are going to be Pro Bowl players and dominant players … but Andre did,” Casserly said. “Andre was the biggest, fastest, most-talented wide receiver that I ever scouted. We worked him out at the University of Miami on grass. He ran 4.35. And he played fast on the tape.”
Said Casserly: “To get a guy that big, that fast, that’s a great player — now that’s a rare situation. And on top of it, his work ethic was off the charts. … He was a guy who set the example by the work ethic. How hard he practiced. He went hard every rep, he was top of the charts in the offseason.”
Football types can overthink Johnson’s destiny, but his incredible stretch of top-shelf play at the highest level paint the picture of Canton-bound wonder.
“He’s a Hall of Famer,” said Casserly. “His next stop’s the Hall of Fame. I was fortunate enough to be around Art Monk in Washington and as great as Art was, I think Andre is ahead of him. And Jerry Rice is acknowledged as the best receiver in football, but I’ll say this: Andre had as much talent as Jerry Rice.
“He just didn’t play for the 49ers and a Super Bowl team with Super Bowl, Hall of Fame quarterbacks in their prime,” Casserly said. “He’s as good as Jerry Rice in many areas — in all areas. … This guy was a dominant, dominant player in the National Football League.”