The Indianapolis Colts entered the offseason needing to address the wide receiver position, and that need was there regardless of the status of Reggie Wayne - who the team decided to move on from. Outside of T.Y. Hilton (who himself is only 25-years old), the Colts' depth chart at wide receiver was full of young, relatively inexperienced players. Donte Moncrief will likely have a big role in the offense and has a lot of talent, but he's entering just his second year. And for as much excitement as Duron Carter brings based on his talent, he'll be playing his first NFL season this fall.
Anyone who watched the AFC Championship game could tell that this was a team filled with many issues, but one that stood out was the inability of the receivers to create separation to get anything going in the passing game. It was clear that the Colts needed to add a receiver who could create separation and take some of the pressure and attention off of T.Y. Hilton by being a reliable wideout opposite the young star. They needed a guy who could step in right away and produce, as well as a guy who could be a solid veteran leader for the younger players.
The found exactly the receiver they needed and were looking for in Andre Johnson. As soon as he was released by the Texans the day before free agency officially began, the Colts began pursuing him. That pursuit led to Johnson arriving in Indianapolis on Tuesday night with longtime friend Frank Gore. The Colts got Gore locked up that night and continued to work on Johnson, as they were determined not to let him leave to another visit without a deal. On Wednesday afternoon, the team announced that Andre Johnson was a Colt.
Johnson is a player who, like Gore, might have a resume that warrants legitimate Hall of Fame consideration one day. He spent twelve years with the division rival Houston Texans and leaves as the franchise's greatest player, having caught 1,102 passes for 13,597 yards and 64 touchdowns, averaging 13.4 yards per catch. He has made seven Pro Bowls, two first-team All-Pro teams, two second-team All-Pro teams, and he has led the NFL in receiving yards twice. Without a doubt, he's been one of the best wideouts in the league over the past decade - and has done so while playing with sub-par quarterback play for most of his career.
Now, in Indianapolis, the 33-year old Johnson will have the chance to play with one of the league's best quarterbacks to close his career as he chases his first Super Bowl title. Johnson, who referred to Andrew Luck as "a heck of a player" while talking with Colts.com after signing with the team, also recounted why he choose the Colts. "When I was released," Johnson said, "a lot of my friends and family and stuff, they were like, 'well, I guess you're gonna probably go to the Patriots to play with Tom Brady' or something like that, and in my mind I'm like, 'you all must not know about that kid down in Indy.'"
With Johnson added to an already dynamic passing offense that features Luck, Hilton, Moncrief, and tight ends Coby Fleener and Dwayne Allen, it's exciting times for Colts fans. It's unfair to expect Johnson to come in and play at the same level that he has over the past decade - like one of the best in the league - but he still does have plenty left in the tank and should be a very good number two receiver option for the Colts.
Regardless of criticism about age, Andre Johnson is exactly what the Colts needed at receiver this offseason. They needed a guy who could provide a veteran presence to the young receivers, and that's Johnson. They needed a reliable possession receiver, and that's Johnson. They needed a guy who could take some of the attention and pressure away from T.Y. Hilton, and that's Johnson. And they needed a guy who wouldn't really cripple the Colts cap-wise in the future (when new deals for Luck, Hilton, and others will need to be addressed), and that's Johnson.
It's hard to predict exactly how good Andre Johnson will be for the Colts in 2015, and with plenty of weapons he could see his targets go down compared to what he's used to. But make no mistake about it - Johnson will have a major role in the Colts' offense this year and should be up to the challenge of being that veteran possession receiver that the Colts needed, and as such there's not much to dislike about this signing.
Quick Summary: Andre Johnson:
Weight: 230 pounds
Age: 33 years old
Years Pro: Spent twelve years with the Texans (2003-2014)
Drafted: Selected in the first round (third overall) of the 2003 draft by the Houston Texans
Stats: Played in 169 games, caught 1,012 passes for 13,597 yards and 64 touchdowns (averaging 13.4 yards per catch); seven-time Pro Bowler
Contract: 3-year, $21 million contract with $10 million guaranteed; $7.5 million cap hit in 2015 (per Spotrac)