Johnson, 33, tweeted: “It's official I'm a Colt” with an Instagram picture of him arm and arm with Colts head coach Chuck Pagano.
The Texans’ all-time leader in every major pass receiving category joins an NFL No. 1 passing offense with three-time Pro Bowl quarterback Andrew Luck, Pro Bowl wide receiver T.Y. Hilton and tight ends Dwayne Allen and Coby Fleener.
The Colts were aggressive in wanting to sign the two-time NFL All-Pro and seven-time Pro Bowl selection, who at 6-3 and 230 pounds combines size with speed and brings a veteran presence from a dozen NFL seasons in which he’s caught 1,012 passes for 13,597 yards and 64 touchdowns.
Johnson will fill the void, ironically, of his old offseason workout partner, Reggie Wayne, who was recently informed he would not be re-signed after 14 seasons with the franchise. Both of them played their college football at Miami (Fla.).
Gore and Johnson were Hurricanes teammates and as soon as news spread of their flight to Indianapolis. Gore’s three-year contract with the team was announced Tuesday before Irsay’s plane touched down. Johnson spent the evening with Pagano and general manager Ryan Grigson and then part of Wednesday.
In Gore’s Wednesday afternoon conference call, he said Johnson was “his own man” and that the receiver would take his time before making a decision. The Seahawks were reportedly out of contention after making a trade for tight end Jimmy Graham.
Ian Rapoport of NFL.com and NFL Network reported a plane was leaving to take Johnson to San Diego, where the Chargers were prepared to offer more money. But Grigson then closed the deal.
Gore, outside linebacker Trent Cole and defensive end Kendall Langford — all three Tuesday additions — alluded to the Colts being a Super Bowl contender and having Luck as making the team an attractive choice.
The Texans released Johnson Monday because he was to count $16.1 million against the salary cap. Last season, he caught 85 passes for 936 yards and three touchdowns, a drop-off from the previous two years — he had 109 catches for 1,407 yards and five TDs in 2013 and 112 catches for 1,598 yards and four TDs in 2012.
But that was when he was the No. 1 option. He doesn’t have to be with the Colts, who will look to spread the ball around. Hilton, 25, is entering a contract year after catching 82 passes for a second consecutive season with a career-high 1,345 yards with seven touchdowns.
Wayne played hurt for much of the season, which meant defenses could focus more on Hilton, a speedster who typically commanded double teams. Johnson will at the very least lesson the burden on Hilton.
Johnson averages an NFL all-time best six receptions per game and his 80.5 yards receiving yards per game rank second in league history. He holds the NFL record with 21 career games of 10-or-more receptions for 100-or-more receiving yards.
He’s one of three players in NFL history to record five 100-reception seasons (2006, 2008-09, 2012-13) as well as surpass 1,500 receiving yards in consecutive years (2008-09). He led the league in receiving yards in 2006, 2008 and 2009.
Phillip B. Wilson can be found on Twitter (@pwilson24), Facebook and Google+.