Should Eagles make a play for WR Andre Johnson?

Should Eagles make a play for WR Andre Johnson?
July 18, 2014, 5:00 pm
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A Pro Bowl wide receiver is potentially available for trade, so naturally we have to ask: Should the Philadelphia Eagles make the Houston Texans an offer for Andre Johnson?

Johnson has made it no secret that he’s unhappy about the current state of the Texans, who appear to be entering a rebuilding period. The seven-time Pro Bowler turned 33 in July and doesn’t want to waste the end of his prime years playing on a losing team.

It’s hard to blame him. Johnson stuck by Houston for 11 years, over which the club made only two trips to the postseason, advancing no further than the second round. Now, the club has a first-year head coach in Bill O’Brien and a veteran placeholder under center in Ryan Fitzpatrick.

They’re not going anywhere this year, and who knows when they’ll be a legitimate contender again.

Johnson’s potential availability should garner some level of interest from just about every team in the league, including the Eagles. Simply put, there aren’t many wide receivers that are better, even in the later stages of Johnson’s career.

Just this past season, he racked up 109 receptions for 1,407 yards, and that was with Case Keenum throwing him the ball roughly half the time. It was the sixth time in Johnson’s career he went over 100 receptions, seventh season eclipsing 1,000 yards. The guy has bona fide Hall of Fame credentials.

That being said, Johnson is probably a bit of a luxury for the Birds, if that can be said for a player of his caliber.

First, the Eagles would need to be willing to take on Johnson’s hefty salary, which is in the tens of millions over the next three years. The team has the cap space to absorb that right now but must keep an eye on the future with core pieces such as Nick Foles, Fletcher Cox, Mychal Kendricks and Brandon Boykin due up for extensions next year.

Plus, there’s reason to think the Eagles don’t want to pay a receiver that kind of money after they released DeSean Jackson over the offseason. Granted, Jackson will never be confused for Johnson on a football field, and there seemed to be many issues behind the release, but it’s worth noting.

Second, what would it cost to pry Johnson away from the Texans? Multiple picks? Potentially as high as a first-rounder? I doubt Houston would be looking to get back anything less than a second, and frankly, their front office has the leverage. The Texans are a bad team whether Johnson holds out or not.

Those are steep prices to pay if you’re the Eagles, who appear to be set at wideout. I’m sure the front office would like to see what Jeremy Maclin is capable of in a feature-receiver role before he heads to free agency again next March. Riley Cooper signed a five-year contract, so he’s here to stay. Rookies Jordan Matthews and Josh Huff have promising futures to look forward to.

Johnson would be a massive upgrade, for sure. But his presence wouldn’t allow for Maclin to prove his real worth, while also rendering the money committed to Cooper squandered.

If Philadelphia was a dominant receiver away from winning the Super Bowl, one might be tempted to overlook the negatives in a potential deal. I’m not convinced Johnson, who will inevitably lose a step sooner rather than later, represents quite that vast an improvement.

It might be a moot point anyway, because all indications coming out of Houston are the Texans have no intention of moving Johnson. Obviously, they are hoping for a quick turnaround, otherwise why wouldn’t they take a package of first- and third-round picks for a 33-year-old player?

If the Eagles could acquire Johnson on their terms, with a restructured contract that slashes his pay and without mortgaging too many good draft picks, they would have to listen. That doesn’t appear it will be the case here.

The Eagles don’t need Johnson, and the Texans don’t need to part with him. It’s difficult to envision any serious talks taking place.