The saga of Texans wide receiver Andre Johnson is one with a cautionary moral at the center of the tale: Don't mix business and family.
According to a Yahoo! Sports article , Johnson will lose an estimated $20 million over the life of his career because of the contract extension he signed with the Texans in 2007, a contract that now doesn't expire until after the 2014 season.
Johnson signed a six-year, $39 million deal as a rookie in 2003, but signed a six-year extension prior to the 2007 season, using his uncle as his representation.
Because Johnson signed an extension and was not a free agent last year, the article states Johnson really made an eight-year deal with the Texans worth about $60 million in 2007. It also states Johnson will earn $81.71 million over 12 years, about $20 million fewer dollars than he could have, if you go by the 2009 free agent wide receiver signings, the year Johnson would've been a free agent.
Johnson, so far, has been a stand-up guy and only missed a few days of OTAs with the Texans because, bottom line, he signed a contract. It's not the Texans' fault he signed "cheap."
Johnson chose to stay with family as his professional representation, and his uncle clearly thought the six-year extension was a great deal that would cement his nephew's future.
What the uncle didn't factor in was the free agent market, but we'll never know what their exact thought process was. It could be his uncle was hedging his bets in case Johnson suffered a catastrophic injury, but no contracts are guaranteed in the NFL, so that's not a great line of thinking.
Johnson has a real agent now, but he has no leverage with five years remaining on the contract.
What Johnson can do now is follow the example of Cleveland Browns returner/wide receiver Joshua Cribbs.
Cribbs signed a contract with the Browns as an undrafted free agent in 2005. Against the odds, Cribbs made the team and performed well. Due to that performance, he signed a six-year contract extension with the Browns prior to the 2006 season.
At the time, it was considered a great contract for a guy who had been an undrafted free agent and whose primary role was returning punts and kicks. However, Cribbs continued to raise the bar on his performance and had clearly outperformed his contract prior to the 2009 season.
Cribbs said he was promised a new contract by general manager Phil Savage, but Savage was fired and new head coach Eric Mangini, who became the de facto head of football operations in Cleveland during 2009, refused to budge.
So Cribbs did nothing but show up and break records, becoming the Browns MVP for the 2009 season.
By showing up and being one of the best in the league, he forced management's hand on the issue. They had to pay him, despite the years remaining on his contract.
Johnson led the league with 1,569 receiving yards last season. He needs to go out and do that again, along with making sure he's the guy who is always open in the end zone. He needs to be the guy at the charity events, signing autographs.
In short, Johnson needs to keep just being himself, and it's possible he'll get a bigger contract in a year or two. He isn't grossly underpaid like Cribbs was, but he'll quickly fall down that list with the contract he did sign.
If Johnson continues to be one of the top three wide receivers in the league, the Texans will find a way to reward him.
Otherwise, he'll still finish the contract having earned more than $80 million, and there's nothing wrong with that, but it's not $100 million.