Numerous players have been released over the last week, and frequently they have been notable names. One more is likely going to join that group between now and next Tuesday. The Houston Texans have given wide receiver Andre Johnson permission to seek a trade, and if that does not work, they will likely release him.
The news comes following word that the team had informed Johnson he would be looking at a reduced role in 2015. While simply a reduced role might be worked around, for a player with the cap figure of Johnson, that also likely meant the team would expect him to take a pay cut. Johnson is due a base salary of $10.5 million in 2015. With his prorated signing bonus and roster bonus, Johnson would have a cap figure of $16,144,583. Add in a $14,675,000 cap figure in 2016, and the team was going to ask for a change at some point.
As soon as word got out that Johnson was likely parting ways with the Texans, people have been talking about whether the San Francisco 49ers will make a play for him. They will potentially need wide receivers, particularly if Michael Crabtree departs in free agency and the team cuts Stevie Johnson.
While Johnson could bring something to the table for the 49ers, I'm not sure I see it being what the team needs at this point. I spoke with Brett Kollmann from Battle Red Blog to get some quick thoughts on where Johnson stands at this point in his career. Here is what Brett had to say:
Andre can still be the anti-Richard Sherman for another year or so, I think. He's old, sure, but #80 can still run a damn fine route. Offseason wrist surgery before 2014 kind of messed with his normally reliable hands on a few occasions last season as well - and I am not sure if that problem will persist in the future - but I believe he can haul in whatever missiles Kaepernick tosses his direction if SF decides to pursue him. Johnson can still be a number one receiver for some team in the league, though I think he might not be an elite number one receiver anymore. Think of Johnson like a really, really good possession receiver.
So...I guess he's Anquan Boldin.
If the 49ers elected to go after a wide receiver in free agency, guys like Torrey Smith and Kenny Britt seem to be a better fit. Britt and Smith finished 13th and 15th, respectively, in PFF's deep pass catch rate. They were also tenth and ninth, respectively, in yards per catch. Britt is a serious question mark, but has a lot of talent. Smith is a little more reliable, but that might boost his price a bit. I don't expect the 49ers to invest heavily in free agent wide receivers, but I do hope they bring in Smith and Britt for a visit.
As for Johnson? While I would certainly have no problem with a second Anquan Boldin, the 49ers certainly should not break the bank for him. Let him hit free agency and see what the market brings. I think someone out there will pay more than the 49ers for Johnson, and if that happens, I can live with it.