Three years. Whew! Where does it go? I remember sitting in a desert bar, drinking beer out of a goblet. The 2015 NFL Draft was on. The Texans selected Kevin Johnson. Cornerback. Wake Forest. I had no idea who he was, and now, three years later, nobody still really knows who he is.
All first round draft picks have a fifth-year contractual option for the team who selects them. After three seasons, teams can choose to decline it, allowing the player to be a free agent at the conclusion of the fourth season of the deal. Or the team can exercise that fifth-year option, keeping the player in town for five years instead of four. If exercised, the fifth-year contract amount is tied to where the player was drafted and the position he plays.
This year, the deadline for the 2015 draft class comes on May 3rd. Some teams have beaten the deadline already. The Tennessee Titans got the worm, as Marcus Mariota’s option was picked up. The rest of the NFL, the Texans included, still has a decision to make. Houston can (1) keep Johnson around for five years and pay him a guaranteed $9 million in 2019; (2) wait and see how he performs in 2017 and deal with the uncertainty of free agency; or (3) extend K-Jo via a new contract, keeping him past 2019.
Going back to the introduction to this track, this is a difficult decision to make. On one hand, the Texans don’t have young cornerback depth, or really any cornerback depth at all. Aaron Colvin is still an unknown stepping out from the shadow of the best cornerback combo in football. Johnathan Joseph has a gray muzzle. Kareem Jackson is on everyone’s last nerve. Cornerbacks are hard to find, and the good ones cost a lot. Johnson was good his rookie year and was great in 2016 until finding his way to Injured Reserve.
On the other hand, Johnson was gross last year. After sitting out Week Six on in 2016 with a broken foot and being fully healthy entering the 2017 season, he was awful. In both the Jaguars and Bengals games, he struggled before straining his MCL two games into season. When he came back, HOWDY, he was terrible again. In the aggregate of the 2017 season, Johnson played 12 games, was targeted 47 times, gave up 9.2 yards a pass attempt, had a success rate of 45%, and gave up 3.0 yards after the catch. These numbers are from Football Outsiders Premium Charting Data.
When Johnson was mashing some and looked like another great Rick Smith first round pick, he would play off-man coverage and pounce on shorter targets. He tossed his body around and tackled well. And he showed ball skills. Since 2016 ended, he celebrates on the rare occasion he does something correctly, spends a majority of the game arguing with referees over holding and pass interference penalties despite his hands being covered in blood and bits of jersey, and spends almost the entirety of the game with his back to the quarterback, chasing his assignment
$9 million isn’t that much. He could be a buy-low candidate. If I was in charge of the Texans, though, I’d stay away from Johnson’s fifth-year option. Last year was too much of a disaster, and a little more than $9 million can snag a capable cornerback on the open market. Rather than play a guessing game with Johnson, the Texans should ignore his option and be pleasantly surprised if he returns to better form. If he does, he can always be extended. If he doesn’t, awwwwwwwwwwwww...but at least it won’t hurt the team in 2019.
Would You Exercise Kevin Johnson’s Fifth Year Option?
This poll is closed
Extend Him Via A New Contract Instead.