The Texans Cut Andre Johnson

The Texans cut WR Andre Johnson today. The team thanked Johnson for his years of service and started a Twitter hashtag, #ThankYouAndre, for fans to say goodbye:

I’m sure the Texans will give him a gold watch or another parting gift. The Texans will probably thank him with an “Andre Johnson Day” and induct him into the soon-to-be-created Texans’ Ring of Honor. I think Johnson would’ve preferred the money he would have earned over the next two years of his deal, but that’s a different story.

Most of the pundits discussing the move focus on what the loss of Johnson means for the Texans, how much money the team can save under the salary cap, and where Johnson might play this year. That bores me. What interests me more is how the Texans, and every other team, gets away with it without suffering any public backlash. Every NFL team cuts ties with long-term veterans and doesn’t suffering any PR fallout. We aren’t talking about players who are merely “good.” We’re talking about players who are all-time greats who have been with the team for a decade or longer. Within the last week, the Pats did it with Vince Wilfork. The Colts did it to a lesser extent with Reggie Wayne. Somehow, the NFL has convinced fans to accept this as merely part of the game. Bravo.

I understand football is a bottom-line business. There’s nothing illegal about these team-friendly non-guaranteed deals. The NFLPA signed off on these contracts years ago. Players can always structure their deal for fewer years with more dough per year. Still, this whole scheme as is it sits now strikes me as sordid, especially when the team (a) initially trumpets the long-term deal, (b) cuts a player with years remaining on the deal when it decides it no longer requires his services, and (c) uses it’s cutting of the player as another reason to touch the fans.

Sadly, Johnson saw this day coming last summer. He threatened to hold out and reported to camp only after the Texans assuaged his concerns:

McNair assured Johnson the Texans have no intentions of cutting him after this season and that the owner expects him to finish his career with the Texans and become the first member of the team to be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

So what changed? I’m reasonably certain the Texans, if not McNair himself, considered the possibility of cutting Johnson after the 2014 season. Could McNair and the team be honest with the man and the fans? Is that too much to ask? That seems to be a far better way to say thank you than a silly #ThankYouAndre campaign.

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