Bengals Should Pursue Andre Johnson

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Dec 28, 2014; Houston, TX, USA; Houston Texans wide receiver Andre Johnson (80) on the sideline during the fourth quarter against the Jacksonville Jaguars at NRG Stadium. The Texans defeated the Jaguars 23-17. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

According to the Houston Chronicle’s John McClain, Houston Texans wide receiver Andre Johnson is available.  The team has given him permission to seek a trade, but if one cannot be found, it seems the team will release him, which will make him an unrestricted free agent.  Andre Johnson may be turning 34 years old this off-season, but a player of his caliber rarely hits the free agent market and the Bengals should pounce on the opportunity to sign the all-time great.

The team is currently in the hunt for another receiver and would like to add a player with speed and returning ability.  Johnson isn’t this, but that shouldn’t matter as he would provide the offense with another game-changing option.

Lining up on the outside across from All-Pro A.J. Green would give the Bengals one of the league’s best wide receiving duos.  More than this, with Mohamed Sanu and the return of Marvin Jones, the team would have the deepest wide receiving core in the league.  This is especially important when considering the team’s quarterback.  Andy Dalton has struggled to grow, and at this point, seems incapable of carrying an offense.  It’s likely for this reason that the Bengals have spent so much time and resources investing in receiving options.  Making sure the team is immune to the injury bug within its receiving options is vital for Dalton.  Andre Johnson would further ensure that Dalton always has a dominant target to throw to.

Beyond depth, Andre Johnson would give the Bengals another downfield option that could demand double teams.  It would be incredibly hard for a defense to decide which receiver (Johnson or Green) to double team and how to stop this down-the-field tandem.  The threat he imposes would force defenses to spread out making it nearly impossible to bring secondary help forward when attempting to deal with Jeremy Hill and the running attack; they’d also likely employ a nickel defense more often than not, further weakening their run defense.  Putting some combination of Johnson, Green, Jones, Sanu, Tyler Eifert, Jeremy Hill, and Giovani Bernard on the field at the same time would be an incredibly difficult offense to defend and would take all the pressure off Andy Dalton.

Johnson would also give the Bengals more flexibility in the upcoming draft.  It may be a small benefit, but it should be taken into account.  The team has several holes to fill in the upcoming draft, so gaining a highly capable wide prior to the draft would be beneficial.  And Johnson may not come at a terrible price.

The team has extra picks this year, and based on how blatant it is that the Texans will be moving on from him, Johnson may not demand a terribly high selection.  Also, based on his contract, the Bengals could likely afford him this season and then would have the freedom to move on from him in the coming season.

If Johnson were signed after being released, he wouldn’t likely demand anything near his current $16 million cap hit.  Johnson is likely looking to play for a Super Bowl contending team, so he’d likely be enticed by the idea of playing for a team where his presence could push them over the top.  The Bengals may not be the top contending team looking for his services, but they certainly have the combination of cash and talent to make an appealing offer.

Although the Bengals have expressed an interest in diversifying their wide receiving group when seeking speed and agility, Andre Johnson is the type of talent that makes this focus negligible. Diversifying the group is an excellent idea, but having a presence like Johnson could help the Bengals conquer their playoff woes and push them to the ultimate prize.

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