Chargers Sign Leon Johnson

On a day when first cuts are to be made, the San Diego Chargers signed Leon Johnson. Johnson is a veteran of five NFL seasons, starting his career with the New York Jets before joining the Chicago Bears and a brief stint with the St Louis Rams.

Leon Johnson, 6-0, 222, spent three seasons with the New York Jets (1997-99) and two with the Chicago Bears (2001-2002). He joined St. Louis as an unrestricted free agent this offseason but was released by the Rams on Monday.

Johnson's primary role during his career has been as a punt and kick returner. His career totals include 109 punt returns for 1,116 yards (10.2 avg.) and 51 kickoff returns for 1,134 yards (22.2 avg.).

Out of the backfield, Johnson has recorded 213 carries for 773 yards (3.6 avg.) and nine touchdowns, as well as 46 receptions for 380 yards (8.3 avg.) and two touchdowns. Johnson has seven starts in 57 regular season games.

Johnson started four games and played in all 16 contests for Chicago in 2002. He finished last season with 28 punt returns for 288 yards (10.3 avg.) and 21 kickoff returns for 418 yards (19.9 avg.). He was also the Bears' second-leading rusher with 103 carries for 329 yards (3.2 avg.) and one touchdown and added 16 catches for 125 yards (7.8 avg.).

Johnson originally entered the NFL as a fourth-round pick (104th overall) with the Jets in 1997 out of North Carolina, where he was the only player in Atlantic Coast Conference history to finish his career ranked in the top five in all-purpose yards, scoring, touchdowns and top 10 in rushing and receptions. He left the school as the Tar Heels all-time leader in career all-purpose yards with 5,828.

Johnson was hurt in his second season in New York and it ultimately cost him an expanded role. The following season he could not return from a knee injury and Bill Parcells, the Jets coach at the time, was not willing to wait for his return.

The Chargers will now have to release an extra body to make room for Johnson.


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