Stop Being a Nerf Herder: Is Andre Johnson the Answer for the Oakland Raiders?
What IS a nerf herder anyway? Someone who gathers nerf footballs? Apparently, Princess Leia thought it was pretty insulting when she called Han Solo a nerf herder in the Empire Strikes Back. So I looked it up, and it turns out it refers to someone who’s somewhat simple, but capable. And so far, the Oakland Raiders have been just that.
Very few moves were made in 2014, but they turned out to be relatively solid, as at least a competent starting quarterback in Derek Carr and a standout linebacker in Khalil Mack (ESPN’s Defensive Rookie of the Year) resulted from the draft. So far, the 2015 off season has been similarly uneventful (but for the release of safety Tyvon Branch), but scenarios are starting to clear up for the Raiders.
As noted, the NFL announced the 2015 cap will be $143.28 million, an increase of about $10 million from 2014 and about $20 million from 2013. And it appears that Oakland will have about $58 million in salary cap room after releasing Branch. [UPDATE: 3/5/15 @ 5 PM ET: The Raiders just released LaMarr Woodley, now likely moving cap space to just over $60 million]. It’s possible for the Raiders to clear more cap space, but they may be intentionally slow rolling the releases to keep it low. Why, you ask? As ESPN explains, it’s because of the minimum cash/cap threshold they must meet by the end of next season, meaning the Raiders have to spend the entirety of their cap this off season.
In my opinion, seeing as how there are so many needs in Oakland, this shouldn’t be a problem. And as I’ve mentioned previously, wide receiver is where I think they should spend.
Of course, the big target in the upcoming free agency period will be Randall Cobb, followed closely by Jeremy Maclin and Torrey Smith. None of the three were tagged by their respective teams, and it appears, at least for some, that negotiations for a long term deal are unlikely to be completed prior to March 10. Take Maclin and Cobb for instance:
Updated info on Maclin: Deal was close for some time, not as close recently and he's getting nibbles. #Eagles have to up ante w/ McCoy leak.
— Jeff McLane (@Jeff_McLane) March 4, 2015
— NFL (@nfl) March 5, 2015
I originally thought that the best course of action would be to grab one of those three receivers or Michael Crabtree in free agency and then fill out the other receiver spot in the draft (Amari Cooper, Kevin White and Jaelen Strong come to mind as, no pun intended, strong options). But with the upcoming release of Andre Johnson, it has me thinking, why not Oakland?
Earlier this week, the Texans gave Johnson permission to seek a trade after he had been informed that he would have a diminished role in 2015.
Johnson, however, is owed $11.5 million in 2015 and $12 million in 2016, including a $1 million roster bonus in both seasons, making it challenging to find a trade partner. But why make it easy on the Texans? The easier route would be for Johnson to be released and then shop his services to any team that’s interested. And thus, Johnson asked the Texans to be released from his contract.
It wouldn’t be surprising for the Texans to grant Johnson’s request. Johnson counts for about $16 million against the 2015 salary cap and the Texans could save almost $9 million in salary-cap space if they released Johnson before June 1.
Getting Johnson can get Oakland the proven veteran presence it needs to help bring along any younger receivers it chooses to draft. And Oakland could certainly afford it.
Johnson has had over 1000 receiving yards every year that he played all 16 games back to 2004 (and the only year in which he was short was his rookie season where he had 976 yards). It’s true that Johnson had a bit of down year in 2014, but honestly, just look at the “quality” of quarterbacks he had to deal with in Houston? It’s not that Derek Carr is Aaron Rodgers, but he certainly has a higher ceiling than the likes of Ryan Fitzpatrick and Case Keenum.
The big question is whether Johnson would want to go to Oakland. The problem is that Johnson’s agent stated:
“[Johnson] looks forward to challenging for a Super Bowl.”
No offense, Raiders fans, but according to Vegas, the Raiders are 75 to 1 to win the Super Bowl in 2015 (good for second to last). Dallas, Green Bay, Seattle, Denver, Indianapolis and New England have all been mentioned as potential landing spots that would fit Johnson’s requirement of “challenging for a Super Bowl”. So whether Johnson would want to be part of a rebuilding project in Oakland that could make for a good Cinderella story in 2015 is unclear. What IS clear is that Johnson would be a significant upgrade in Oakland if he landed there.
And heck, NCAA March Madness is just around the corner. And who doesn’t like a Cinderella story?