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Andre Johnson: Still checking all the boxes

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Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

I've been a fan of Andre Johnson's work for years. I've perused his gallery of production, taking note of the multiple seasons (7) where he averaged 14.0 YPC or higher. I looked up to the ceiling and witnessed the Michelangelo-like mural that depicted all five of his 100+ reception seasons. I even read all the past newspaper headlines touting Andre's game-winning efforts that are now encased behind glass cabinet doors.

Then as I strolled down a Iong corridor, I heard the grumblings of some Houston Texans front office executives. As I got close enough to make out their conversation, I overheard them talking about the deterioration of Andre. They agreed as a group that he was going to be an undeserving team expense, and they claimed he had nothing left in the tank. Is this true? Nothing left in the tank I thought? I wasnt buying it.

As a Seahawks fan, I don't even know what its like to harbor a wide receiver of his caliber. A hard working, physical receiver that year after year (health pending) produces consistent and high end stats. As I reflected on this scenario my phone buzzed with an ESPN update, "The Houston Texans have given Andre Johnson permission to seek a trade, and if one can't be found, he will be released". Just then it hit me -- Andre Johnson could be a Seattle Seahawk.

There Is Something Left In The Tank

I remember when the "knock" on Andre Johnson (if there is one) was that he had never scored a double digit touchdown season -- I guess people were upset at the five seasons of 100+ catches too. How can you knock a player that produced at such a absurdly high level for so many years? Double digit touchdowns? Do people really think that statistical fact is Andre's fault? I'd argue it was a combination of red zone utilization and the clown car list of quarterbacks who were throwing him the ball.

How about a stroll back through Andre Johnson's career list of quarterbacks that hurled him the pig skin? (stop me when we hit a hall of famer)

• David Carr
• Tony Banks
• Dave Ragone
• Matt Schaub
• Sage Rosenfels
• TJ Yates
• Case Keenum
• Ryan Fitzpatrick

You're right Houston fans, it was probably Andre's fault. Yet the guy still produced at an extremely high level. Even into his early thirties he's posted receiving stats that are far beyond just about every wide receiver that's grazed our Seahawks roster. In fact, since 2007 the only one I can even ballpark with Andre's average annual production would be Bobby Engram, who posted a extremely non-Seahawky line of 94-1147-6 (2007) on just 127 targets (74.0 % Ct) -- that's just incredible.

What I will say about Andre (perhaps not entirely his fault after reviewing his career QB list) is his decline in a handful of statistical categories as he has crested into his 30's.

Don't Put Andre Out To Pasture Just Yet

The most often noted statistical decline is his touchdown production. Over his last four seasons Andre has only compiled a total of 16 touchdowns in 54 games -- all of which at 30 years old or older. Through the three seasons prior to 2011 (2008-2010) Andre posted 25 touchdowns over just 45 games. There are again so many variables here, but we can't say this isn't partly on Andre. Although inconsistent quarterback play, bad red zone usage (rushing in the red zone), increased age, and the emergence of a young star wide receiver in DeAndre Hopkins have more than likely all contributed to the decline as well.

Another often cited "decline" is that over Johnson's past two seasons at ages 32 & 33 we've seen a drop in his receiving efficiency level. He's slipped from the 70.9% receiving percentage he posted in 2012 to a 61.9% in 2013, and a 60.3% in 2014. I don't put these negative percentages on Andre though, I put them on his passer. As has validated, in 2014 Johnson was target 141 times, of those 141 PFF graded only 94 of them as "catchable" passes.

Therefore, Andre Johnson actually reeled in 85 of 94 catchable passes, that's a receiving percentage of almost 92%. The alarming part is the 9 drops AJ committed inside of those 94 catchable balls -- his 9 drops were good for the 9th most in the NFL in 2014. So if one of Houstons arguments is drops, I can handle it. I can only imagine their next most prominent debate would Andre Johnson's reduced ability to create separation thereby increasing his number of catchable balls? Im not even sure. Just think about that though, "nothing left in the tank"? It doesn't really appear that way to me.

In addition to that "declining stat" we've also seen a cascading effect to his YPC as it's dropped in almost numerical order over his past 4 consecutive seasons since 2011.

• 2014: 11.0 YPC
• 2013: 12.9 YPC
• 2012: 14.3 YPC
• 2011: 14.9 YPC

Perhaps again a result of QB play, but more than likely the type of on field usage Andre Johnson has been seeing. All of these "statistical" declines in correlation with AJ's contract money and age have pretty clearly painted the picture that Houston had to convey to him -- "your role is reducing, we will grant you the ability to find a trade and if you cannot find one we will release you".

Sadly it got worse -- recently Bill O'Brien was reported to have told Andre Johnson that he "didn't see him catching more than 40 balls in 2015" to which Andre laughed (I would have too). If that wasn't insult enough to Johnson's illustrious career O'Brien also went on to say that he "didn't think it was likely that Johnson would even make the starting roster in 2015". Wow, are we talking about the same player? We can't possibly be.

Pressing Rewind

Imagine Andre Johnson in Jermaine Kearse place on that final pass play of the Super Bowl. Who would you rather have pressing Brandon Browner? A 6-1"/205lbs Jermaine Kearse or the 6'-3"/230lbs Andre Johnson? My money is on the 33 year old Andre Johnson blocking Brandon Browner all the way back to his high school grandstands. A big, physical, veteran presence is missing in this wide receiver corps and getting all those attributes in one player would just be an irreplaceable boost to this roster.

The Advantages To AJ

In a disgusting world where the Seahawks pass on Todd Gurley with the 31st pick of the first round, having Johnson on Seattle's roster would add a semblance of security to the receiving corps. This perhaps allows them to address a different need in round one, and find a higher end rookie wide receiving option with our second pick -- maybe a Breshad Perriman or Tre McBride?

Yes, I realize though that Andre Johnson will be 34 years old entering the 2015 NFL season and nobody lasts forever -- however if his price tag is right I don't see how we could say no to a player of his caliber. From what I've gathered it looks like his asking price could be a fairly reasonable number. Davis Hsu recently tweeted that spotrac has Andre Johnson somewhere around $6.3M APY. It could be a big time move for Seattle to approach him in the off-chance that he's looking for an opportunity to contend rather than take the largest sum of money possible to play for just anybody.

Perhaps It's Wishful Thinking Again

With the increase to the salary cap of $10M heading into 2015 ($143.28M), and a growing need for solid wide receiving options for Russell Wilson on the outside, I think Johnson checks a lot of boxes.

He'd would immediately add a veteran presence to a championship caliber roster, along with the wealth of experience he could pass down to Seattle's younger receivers playing around him. His addition also gives the Seahawks the ability to freely select in round one, and look for other receiving options in rounds 2 or 3 if the right player came along.

Clearly I am sold on the prospect of one of my long time favorite wide receivers Andre Johnson. The only question is -- are the Seattle Seahawks?