On March 9, 2015, it seemed like the day when Andre Johnson would happily retire a Houston Texan was eons away, not so much chronologically but psychologically. It was on that day that the Texans released their all-time receiving leader, after exhausting all avenues of trying to move him in a trade.
The hard, mathematical truth was that Andre Johnson was going to be extremely expensive (roughly a $16 million salary cap hit) if he remained with the team in 2015. The more subjective, more harsh truth was that Andre Johnson's skills were diminishing after a (for him) pedestrian 2014, in which DeAndre Hopkins evolved into the clear-cut lead wideout for the Texans.
Johnson was reportedly told by Texans head coach Bill O'Brien in one of their final sit-downs that he viewed the future Hall of Fame candidate as a "40-catch guy" for the Texans in 2015. Johnson disagreed, and it was at that point a formality for the team to release him. Unfortunately for Johnson, O'Brien's scouting report was razor sharp, as Johnson had 41 catches for the Indianapolis Colts in 2015. The Colts would release him one year into a three-year deal, and Johnson would finish up his career by calling it quits midway through the 2016 season as a Tennessee Titan.
There is plenty of irony wrapped up in Johnson, the first true Houston Texans "great," taking his final NFL snaps as a member of the zombie version of the Houston Oilers. Fortunately, whatever wounds were there when O'Brien and Rick Smith let Andre go in March of 2015 healed quickly, as Johnson was immediately welcomed back into the Texans family, even showing up on the sidelines at games late last season.
He was born and raised in Miami, but Houston is now home for Andre Johnson. It's where he is building his dream house, and as of Monday, it's where he will officially retire. As first reported by John McClain of the Houston Chronicle, Andre Johnson will sign a one-day contract on Wednesday this week that will allow him to officially retire as a member of the Houston Texans:
Texans are signing WR Andre Johnson to a one-day contract Wednesday so he can officially retire as a Texan. They'll honor him at some point.— John McClain (@McClain_on_NFL) April 17, 2017
In the news release sent out by the Texans on Monday, we were able to relive the statistical giant that Johnson was, despite being hitched to some of the most uneven quarterback play in the league throughout the course of his decade-plus as a Texan:
Johnson spent the first 12 seasons of his career with the Texans after being drafted third overall in the 2003 NFL Draft out of the University of Miami (Fla.). He is the franchise’s all-time leader in nearly every receiving category including career receptions (1,012), receiving yards (13,597), receiving touchdowns (64) and 100-yard games (51). Johnson also holds numerous individual game records for the Texans, including most receptions (14), receiving yards (273) and receiving touchdowns (three) in a game.
Johnson played and started 169 games for the Texans from 2003-14 and led the team in receptions and receiving yards in 10 of those seasons. He set the single-season franchise record for receptions with 115 in 2008 and receiving yards with 1,598 in 2012. Johnson also had a stretch of 133 consecutive games played with a reception (11/6/05 to 12/21/14) and scored 64 career touchdowns with the Texans, second most in franchise history.
As McClain alludes to, the team will find some way to honor Johnson during the upcoming season. Whether it's retiring his number 80, or making him the first ever member of a team "ring of honor," that all remains to be seen. This is uncharted territory for the Houston Texans. They're 15 years old now, and they finally have a retiring player worth feting with a ceremony, a celebration and a possible number retirement.
Whatever the case, one thing is undoubtedly clear — Andre Johnson, despite a somewhat tumultuous departure in 2015, is back, and he is a Houston Texan for life. And yes, the Texans finally made a signing this offseason that all Texans fans can celebrate.
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