Andre Johnson Situation: An Overview
Okay, so let's assess the situation and at least attempt to answer the key questions in what could be a very sad chapter in the Andre Johnson, Texan Legend saga, shall we?
What is causing all this?
Plain and simple, a combination of rampant losing and Andre Johnson staring his athletic mortality in the face. At age 32, Johnson is right at the magical age for the wide receiver position, where marquee wideouts tend to see a decline in productivity (unless their last name is "Rice"). Johnson knows he only has a few more seasons to make a deep (and hopefully successful) playoff run. He also knows there is virtually zero chance of that happening in Houston, especially in light of the moves made by Rick Smith and Bill O'Brien this offseason, wherein they've let almost every veteran free agent walk, cut Owen Daniels and Danieal Manning for cap purposes, and chosen not to draft a franchise quarterback in the first round of the draft. Nothing this team has done indicates a plan with 2014 (or 2015, for that matter) success as the likely outcome. This team is building inside out; their first four picks in the draft (Clowney, Su'a-Filo, Fiedorowicz, Nix) pretty well indicate this. As far as Andre Johnson goes, it's pretty simple -- this isn't about money, it's about "football quality of life." If he's going to have to adjust to a brand-new coaching staff at his age, he'd rather do it with a team that is ready-made to play in early February.
What can the Texans do to fix it?
Honestly, if the goal is to keep Andre Johnson, unless they can somehow turn back time and draft Johnny Manziel or somehow doctor a picture to depict Mike McCarthy making out with a transvestite and extort Aaron Rodgers out of the Packers, the only thing the Texans can do is wait this out and hope Andre Johnson cools off. The team still holds the cards. When you sign a long-term deal and then get as many subsequent restructuring bonuses as Andre Johnson has, you relinquish a lot of your control in a situation like this. If Andre Johnson wants out, sadly, his best avenue is to be a giant pain in the ass, and honestly, I don't know if he has that club in his bag. We shall see.
Oddly, pain in the ass or no pain in the ass, the move that would align most closely with what the Texans have done so far this offseason (again -- shedding veteran salaries, bidding adieu to expensive veteran free agents, signing "lunch-pail" one-year free agents, drafting trench players) would be to move Johnson for a decent-to-high draft pick, if the deal were available. This team is obviously going through a multiyear rebuild, and as such (removing emotion from the situation), Johnson is worth more to them in the form of a good draft pick than he is catching 80 balls from Ryan Fitzpatrick and helping the Texans go 7-9 for two more years.
So if it's time to move on, what are the salary cap ramifications for the Texans?
This is actually the one bit of good news in all of this -- if the Texans were to move Andre Johnson, they would realize a cap savings of $3,680,417, the difference between his $15,644,583 cap figure in 2014 and the $11,964,166 the Texans would get hit with in dead money if they sent Johnson somewhere else (or released him, which would happen only if Johnson began organizing nightly orgies with the wives of the entire coaching staff).