The average NFL career life span is less than four seasons, so the fact is a majority of players who make it to the league very rarely see their second contract. So extremely rare is the player that actually gets to leave his longtime team or the game itself on his own terms.
In the NFL, the ending is generally somber, sometimes even acrimonious.
For Andre Johnson, it was 12 seasons, 169 games, seven Pro Bowls, 1,012 catches and more than 12,000 yards piled up as a Houston Texan. A lifetime's work.
And on Monday, it all ended with a simple email with the subject line: "TEXANS RELEASE WR ANDRE JOHNSON." And even though you know it's coming, it doesn't make it any less surreal.
The Texans finally made it official on Monday afternoon, perhaps not coincidentally just 30 minutes after a media contingent left the building for their press sessions with the newly re-signed Derek Newton and Kareem Jackson. The media was all in their cars on the way home to go write their stories, and the Texans announced it then.
Quotes from general manager Rick Smith and head coach Bill O'Brien:
"After exhausting all options of a possible trade, we informed Andre Johnson that he would be released today," Executive Vice President of Football Operations and General Manager Rick Smith said. "No player in the history of this franchise has represented the team, city and community in a more professional way. Andre is a Hall of Fame caliber player and we appreciate his years of service and contributions to our team."
"I have so much respect for Andre Johnson and what he's meant to this organization," head coach Bill O'Brien said. "Andre carried himself as a true professional and did everything that we asked him to do. Andre will go down as one of the best receivers to every play this game. We are thankful for what he has done for our organization and wish him well on his future playing career."
For his part, Andre Johnson seemed to take exception to the way the organization treated him over the last week or so, lamenting the one-sidedness of NFL contracts to ESPN's Josina Anderson in an interview:
"The funny thing is that when (a player) asks to be traded or something, people get on you about honoring your contract. But when you've done a lot for an organization and they feel like you get old, then they don't have to honor their contract. I don't get where they come up with this honoring your contract when you're very very productive and you are doing great things for them....I don't know a lot of guys in the league that catch 85 balls and have almost 1,000 yards that that's a down year for them. But you have a year like that and then it's 'well your old, we want to reduce your role,' and all this stuff--I don't get that. But that's the nature of the business. Like I said, it doesn't make sense. It doesn't make sense to a lot of people. That's just the way it is. I expected it to happen and I don't have any ill feelings against the Texans organization."
The Texans now officially open up the nearly $9 million in cap space that had been forecast when it was widely reported that Johnson would be traded or cut last week, giving them nearly $30 million in cap space (minus the space used up by the re-signings of Newton, Jackson and Ryan Mallett.
So now the Andre Watch is on, and the best guess is that we will know within the next few days where he will be playing next season. The favorite seems to be Indianapolis, a scenario that has the potential to torment Texans fans for the balance of Johnson's career.
OTHER TEXAN NOTES
* As of late Monday night, the Texans were still waiting on Cleveland free agent QB Brian Hoyer to decide between the Texans and an offer from the New York Jets. It had been reported by some outlets Monday that a deal between Hoyer and the Texans was done, but was later reported that the Jets would be making a last-ditch effort to bring Hoyer to the Big Apple.
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* Speaking of the Browns, they managed to win out over the Texans and the Bears for the services of former Dolphin WR Brian Hartline. Hartline, who went to Ohio State and is from Ohio, went so far as to take a physical when he visited Houston last week, but a final deal never materialized.
* The Texans did bring back wide receiver Damaris Johnson on a one-year, $1 million deal.
* It's pretty much assumed that Brooks Reed will be leaving the Texans in free agency. Reportedly, the Falcons, Jets, Bears and Cardinals all have an interest in the outside linebacker.