From 2006 through 2013, Andre Johnson may have been the most prolific pass catcher in the NFL. He spent those seasons catching passes from David Carr, Matt Schaub, T.J. Yates and Case Keenum, none of whom lasted as starting quarterbacks for more than a handful of seasons, excluding Schaub, who imploded during the 2013 season. During that 8-year stretch, Johnson was coached by Gary Kubiak, the new head man at Dove Valley.
Johnson finished that stretch of his career with 719 receptions, 9,855 yards and 49 touchdowns--Hall of Fame worthy numbers, without a doubt. Unfortunately for Johnson, he does not figure into the plans of the organization and new head coach Bill O'Brien.
Johnson recently requested a trade after he found out his role with the team would be reduced this upcoming season. What’s more likely is that the Texans will end up releasing Johnson, due to the unlikelihood of a team trading for him without the assurance of a pay cut, as a team is highly unlikely to pay him nearly $16.14M for the upcoming season.
This leaves Johnson as a soon-to-be free agent, free to sign with any team. With a huge pool of talented free agent wide receivers this year, where will a soon-to-be 34 year old fit in?
In Denver, the team has a clear cut No. 1 receiver, who also happens to be a top-5 receiver in the league in Demaryius Thomas. They also have Emmanuel Sanders, who is coming off of a career year and his first Pro Bowl selection. Beyond the top two players on the depth chart, there is unproven talent.
Cody Latimer was a second round draft pick last year, but was unable to earn snaps over Andre Caldwell, who is on our list of potential cap casualties. Wes Welker is a free agent, Jordan Norwood is coming off a season lost to injury, and Kyle Williams was out of football in 2013. So where could Johnson fit in?
From what I have seen of Latimer, he is no sure thing to step in and be the player the Broncos need, which is to say a championship-caliber contributor. Peyton Manning is seemingly on deck for one last hurrah and John Elway has shown in the past he is more than willing to pony up and put weapons around Manning.
From Johnson's perspective, the question is whether he's trying to make the most money possible, or have the best chance at winning a Super Bowl? If it's the latter, there is no better fit for Johnson than Denver. With the Broncos, Johnson would play for a contender, across from a wide receiver who commands defenses’ attention and catch passes from one of the best quarterbacks to ever play the game.
In an interview last year, future Hall of Famer Randy Moss said, “For me to come out of retirement for a player such as Peyton Manning, I would consider that.” The appeal is there for the player, not to mention the connection he has to the coach.
From an organizational standpoint, it also makes sense. On the one hand, you get a consummate pro who can mentor the younger receivers. On the other hand, you get a receiver who just came off a season where he caught 85 passes from the likes of Ryan Fitzpatrick.
Contractually, if the Broncos could get Johnson in Denver on a two-year deal worth $4-5 million annually, then it makes a ton of sense. With Elway in charge, anything is feasible.