Safety Rashad Johnson, who was a significant part of the defense on an Arizona Cardinals team that finished 13-3 as the NFC West champions last season, signed with the Tennessee Titans on March 25, as the team announced.
Johnson posted on Instagram following the announcement:
On April 1, Paul Kuharsky of ESPN reported that it's a one-year, $2 million deal with a $500,000 signing bonus and a $1.5 million base salary.
This is somewhat surprising considering Johnson stated his desire this offseason to remain with the franchise that drafted him in 2009 for the rest of his career, per Robby Baker of 12News.com:
It would be great, seven years, I think another deal here could solidify that. I would love to go back to Alabama and be able to tell the story for the rest of my life that I was a Cardinal for life, one team. I built my legacy from the ground up. I was a walk on, when I got here I was drafted in the third round I had to sit out a few years and just play special teams. Didn't get a chance to play until my fifth year. I would love for that to be my legacy.
Alas, he is 30 years old and headed in a new direction. While he should be past his prime on paper, he turned in a career-high mark in interceptions (five) as a ball hawk at the back end of the defense in 2015 and likely has plenty to prove now that Arizona didn’t bring him back into the fold:
|Season||Team||Combined Tackles||Interceptions||Fumble Recoveries||Forced Fumbles||Passes Defended|
In addition to the interceptions the past few seasons, Johnson’s durability stands out. He has never played fewer than 10 games per season in his career, and that low mark was back in his rookie season in 2009. What’s more, his ability to remain on the field is even more impressive since he lost the top of his middle finger in 2013.
Johnson comes up to support against the run (his tackle numbers were especially notable in 2014) and makes his presence felt when receivers cross the middle. He is also solid in pass coverage and was around the ball plenty the past two seasons, tallying nine of the 15 interceptions in his career.
Thanks at least in part to his effort, the Arizona defense was fifth in the league in total yards allowed and eighth in the league against the pass in 2015.
Bill Barnwell of ESPN.com wrote that re-signing Johnson was one of five moves the Cardinals should make in the offseason, and Thomas Maney of Pro Football Focus echoed similar sentiments because “he’s played more than 96 percent of the team’s defensive snaps over the last two seasons, and retaining him would certainly help to maintain continuity.”
The fact that more than one person thought the Cardinals should bring Johnson back should be a sign to Titans fans that Tennessee added a valuable contributor.
While he is on the wrong side of his 30th birthday, he will provide veteran leadership to the back end of the defense as a playmaker who has played some of his best football in recent seasons. If he replicates that with his new contract, Johnson will be a worthwhile signing for the Titans.