David Johnson’s contract makes it very hard to release him

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An ESPN.com item aimed at conjuring one prediction per team for the offseason took on a life of its own this week, with some incorrectly interpreting the predictions as something more than that. One prediction in particular definitely should not be regarded as something more than that, primarily because it was premised on inaccurate information that has yet to be corrected.

As to the Cardinals, ESPN.com predicted that running back David Johnson will be cut because “[h]e’s scheduled to earn $10.2 million in 2020, with the entire amount guaranteed on the third day of the league year.”

Actually, the $10.2 million in base salary already is fully guaranteed, thanks to a term in the contract that vested the guarantees a year early. It’s a genius provision that gives players much more security than rolling guarantees, like the $15.7 million in base salary for 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo that doesn’t become fully guaranteed until April 1.

Thus, the Cardinals already are stuck. Johnson is getting $10.2 million this year, and he has no reason to restructure his contract. If he’s cut, offset language would save some money for Arizona based on what he makes elsewhere, but there would be no reason for a new team to offer him more than the minimum, since Arizona will be paying the difference between the minimum and $10.2 million.

Then there’s the cap charge that comes from cutting Johnson. It would be $16.2 million, minus whatever he earns elsewhere. Keeping him comes with a lower cap charge of $14.1 million.

Although the Cardinals would like to keep Kenyan Drake, a free agent who supplanted Johnson after a trade that brought Drake from Miami in October, it could make sense to just keep Johnson around. Running back injuries happen all the time; the Cardinals ultimately may need Johnson.

Another possibility could be a trade, pursuant to which the Cardinals pay some of the salary and the new team pays the rest, possibly with net draft-pick compensation flowing to the team that takes on the contract, like the Brock Osweiler hot-potato trade from Houston to Cleveland. (At least Osweiler will be remembered for something.)

29 responses to “David Johnson’s contract makes it very hard to release him

  1. Wow. Well, Jerry can hang his hat on knowing his team decisions on RB contracts isn’t as bad as Arizona’s at least, so Dallas has that going for them.

  2. He has no trade value with that contract.

    Just like the Rams can’t trade Todd.

    You don’t play backs anything.

    Or did you miss the complete castoffs in the Superbowl?

  3. It sounds so so harsh but I would never pay a rb a hefty second contract. Use em up and move on. Too many examples especially lately. One of the toughest positions to play but they’re replaceable

  4. I honestly don’t know what happened to Johnson. During the second half of his rookie and his second year he was one of the best running backs in the league. Not just production wise but even using the eye test. I saw some spectacular runs during that stretch. Plus he also was a very very good receiver out the back field. It’s just baffling that he fell off in a blink of the eye.

  5. When you have a small scrambler baseball QB you need your backfield to be good blockers – which is David Johnson’s weakest point. Then add to that a few injury issues of late.

  6. 6thsense10 says:
    February 8, 2020 at 9:27 am
    I honestly don’t know what happened to Johnson. During the second half of his rookie and his second year he was one of the best running backs in the league. Not just production wise but even using the eye test. I saw some spectacular runs during that stretch. Plus he also was a very very good receiver out the back field. It’s just baffling that he fell off in a blink of the eye.
    _________________________________

    As a fan there is a tendency for you to think all players play for the love of the game and / or championships. But we constantly see players squeezing every dollar they can out of their teams. As they should. But that is not how teams win championships. Has any team that maxed out a QB salary won a Super Bowl? Johnson got paid and immediately his production fell. Think that’s a coincidence?.

  7. How many horrible decisions does Keim get to make before he loses his job? This is bad decision number 294,637,819 🙄. Must be nice to have a 20 year friendship with the owner. This situation is much like Bruce Allen and Snyder

  8. And furthermore, for the record, Johnson didn’t fall off. His statistics were good for 1 year. Bruce Arians, as he’s done with many players, found a way to use him as a receiver and he had success. BA covered a million bad roster decisions due to his coaching ability. Johnson is SLOW, lacks elite agility and cannot create big plays on his own. His strength however is as a receiver out of the backfield. The contract is a bad one.

  9. I’d bet Arizona ends up trading David Johnson. DJ can still play at a very high level he is just an extremely poor fit for Kingsbury’s offense, rumor is Arians has interest in bringing him to Tampa Bay which makes a lot of sense as they need a good dual threat back and Johnson is a perfect fit for that offense. Johnson’s skill-set in the passing game as a receiver would really open things up for Tampa’s WR corps too which is a very good deep core of receivers on that roster. Arizona won’t get nothing for DJ, if they do trade him it’ll definitely be just to clear his cap hit from the books .

  10. What do these guys have in common?

    David Johnson,
    Todd Gurley,
    LeVeon Bell

    You can add in Zeke Elliot.

    Grossly overpay a RB and you suffer for a few years.
    The GMs made bad decisions, now they have to live with it for a year longer.

  11. It’s called a risk when a contract has a good chance of failing
    When it fails 100% of the time it’s time to call it something else
    You sign a running back for big money, you know what you’re getting

  12. RBs need to petition their NFLPA reps to get them better rookie contracts in this upcoming CBA compared to the rest of the positions.

    McCaffrey will be run into the ground soon too. I get players want as many touches as they can but they also lose years from their career.

  13. When will teams learn? The Pats won SB’s with RB by committee, the Eagles did too, the Chiefs and 49ers both just made it with journeymen at RB. It’s far more to do with the oline, OC, QB play etc.

    Chargers dodged a bullet not extending Gordon and the Steelers dodged one letting Bell walk.

  14. Easy to fix the CBA so that it’s fairer for the running backs
    – Rookie contracts last 3 years, you can’t hold out (barring exceptional circumstances)
    – All contracts are a maximum of 4 years long

    That should get rid of a lot of holdouts and the dead money that ruins it for the fans of teams in salary cap hell

  15. Florio you’re high key obsessed with the 49ers and jimmy G. Hate to burst your bubble but they aren’t gonna trade for your boy cousins.

    Still smarting after Richard Sherman owned you on Twitter? 😆

  16. Annoymousthinker is wrong…

    Johnson was fast, elusive and punishing his first two seasons in the league. His jump cut was exceptional…he ran away from everybody, and ran through just as many.

    I think the problem with Johnson was he hurt his knee in game 17 of the 2016 season and may have lost a step at that point… but we never got to see that for sure because after very small use in the 2017 preseason…he hurt his arm, and was forced to miss the 2017 season because of it… so the Cardinals never really got extended looks at the slower version of Johnson we see now.

    Sure the contract was bad… but it was also a case of thinking that the guy merley misses a year of wear and tear because of an arm injury….

    However…his legs werent the same either at that point.

  17. 6thsense10 says:
    February 8, 2020 at 9:27 am
    I honestly don’t know what happened to Johnson. During the second half of his rookie and his second year he was one of the best running backs in the league. Not just production wise but even using the eye test. I saw some spectacular runs during that stretch. Plus he also was a very very good receiver out the back field. It’s just baffling that he fell off in a blink of the eye.
    =========================================

    Trust me, it’s baffling to AZ fans as well. He is still a very good receiver, but he can’t (or won’t) run hard between the tackles any more. He used to hit the holes harder than almost anyone. Now he just looks slow, and he’s never been a very good blocker despite his size and strength. Plus, the word around here is that he had a difficult time picking up Kingsbury’s offense. I agree with the poster who suggested that be might be better off reuniting with BA in Tampa.

  18. There seems to be a pattern with way too many players now days and that is they play good their first 3yrs then try to have a career year in year 4, sign the BIG contract and then slack until their next contract year, wash, rinse, repeat! We see it happening way too often now days.

    That’s why these owners will NEVER agree with fully guaranteed contracts that the players want, hell most of the time the team is getting screwed now when these players don’t produce after they signed the BIG contract! I could see a lot of these contracts moving more towards incentive based contracts because these big money guaranteed contracts are killing a whole lot of teams.

    OH and pretty soon look for a salary cap on what a player can make!
    The NFL ruined the game by paying the players too much, when they were paid a lot less winning a SB was the motivating force, now it’s ONLY the money for most players, just look at how many players say “that ring doesn’t pay my bills” now days, you NEVER heard that 10-15yrs ago!

    I find myself watching a lot more college football and a lot less of the NFL every year!

  19. He knows the system, as does Drake, and they have the cap space to sign both. Might as well have some depth at RB!

  20. Trade DJ to my Redskins, who will take on $3 million of the contract, give Arizona a 7th round pick. He is 28 and trending downward.
    —————
    Lol, some fans are delusional.

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