The footnote to the worst trade in Houston Texans history, the one that sent All-Pro wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins to the Arizona Cardinals, is running back David Johnson. To this day, no sane mind has been able to justify exactly what former head coach/general manager Bill O’Brien saw in that deal. Other than blaming it on Jack Easterby, it simply makes no sense no matter how you sell the idea.
In 2020, DeAndre Hopkins caught 115 passes on 160 targets for 1,374 adds, 75 first downs, and 6 touchdowns for the Arizona Cardinals. These stats are good enough to plant him firmly in the second-best slot for wide receivers league-wide. David Johnson ran for 691 yards on 147 attempts, picked up 38 first downs, and scored 4 touchdowns for the Texans. That’s good enough to rank Johnson 23rd in the league in 2020.
Yeah - that trade happened, and those are the direct results.
Now, with incoming general manager Nick Caserio staring out at a valley where his pile of salary cap cash should be, the Texans will need to make some big moves to free up enough capital to remake this awful roster. According to the folks over at Pro Football Focus, David Johnson is third on the list of players teams should cut ASAP. Keeping Johnson on the roster for 2021 would result in a $12 million cap hit. Surely the Texans can find a rookie or practice squad guy who can rack up 691 yards for under $2 mil, if not less.
If the Texans cut Johnson before June 1st, they’ll net a savings of $9.9 million, leaving a cap hit of $2.1 million. While it always sucks to pay for a player no longer on your roster, it sucks even more to pay the 23rd best running back in the league $12 million for one year of service. Better yet, the cap hit doesn’t change after June 1st, so Houston does have some options in terms of when they cut Johnson. Since there’s no upside to keeping him, letting him go now would free some space right away and help Caserio & Co. fee like they’ve made an immediate and positive impact.
Short of convincing the Arizona Cardinals to undo the trade so Houston can get Hopkins back, there’s no legit reason to keep Johnson around this year. Let him go now, free up the cap space, and take a solid first step in an offseason quickly becoming overwhelmed with black marks against the organization.