Andre Johnson is disgruntled in Houston. The New England Patriots haven’t had a true deep threat since the days of Randy Moss. After failed experiments (can you say Ochocinco?) and a mostly unproven group of young receivers, the Pats aerial attack could definitely benefit from Johnson’s skills. But at what cost? Johnson’s base salaries over the next three years are $10 million, $10.5 million and $11 million. The Patriots salary cap space hovers around $7 million. New England would need to significantly restructure several veteran contracts in order to absorb Johnson’s cap hit.
At age 32, Johnson is showing no sign of decline, totaling 109 receptions for 1,407 yards and five touchdowns in 2013. His durability seems like a non-issue, as well, playing in all 16 games over the last two seasons. But, he’s tired of losing. Johnson admitted he is frustrated and is left wondering if Houston is “still the place for me.” He hasn’t shown for the team’s OTAs and currently has no plans to attend mini-camp. Houston’s plan for rebuilding, including their current quarterback roster isn’t exactly a selling point to retain the receiver either. It includes Ryan Fitzpatrick, Case Keenum, TJ Yates and rookie Tom Savage.
“I just look at my career. I’ve only been to the playoffs twice. I think we’ve only had three winning seasons,” said Johnson. “I don’t think any player wants to experience that. I think over time it can become very frustrating. And this off-season has been very frustrating for me.”
Given first year coach Bill O’Brien’s relationship with Bill Belichick, could a deal be struck? The Ryan Mallet trade rumors continue to circulate, but the QB has been a perennial clipboard holder in New England, attempting only four passes in his career. The 2011 third round pick has potential, but would Houston be interested in dealing their best offensive weapon in exchange for Mallet and possible draft picks? Sure, if the price was right.
So where does that leave New England? The team signed former Carolina Panther receiver Brandon LaFell in the off-season but his impact will be minimal at best. Danny Amendola has trouble staying healthy, leaving Josh Boyce, Aaron Dobson, Kembrell Thompkins and Julian Edelman to carry the load. Those names aren’t exactly Hall of Fame material.
The Patriots made great strides in bolstering their defense over the last few months, acquiring Darrelle Revis and Brandon Browner. Now, with Tom Brady’s window of opportunity for another Super Bowl win closing, it’s clearly time to add a weapon like Johnson and sign the seven-time Pro Bowler. Their biggest threat in the AFC, the Denver Broncos, are clearly in “win-now” mode. What’s stopping the Patriots from doing the same?