Published: November 9th, 2009 | Tags: Ahman Green, Bill Belichick, Brian Westbrook, Clinton Portis, Donald Brown, Green Bay Packers, Houston Texans, Indianapolis Colts, Kansas City Chiefs, LaDainian Tomlinson, Larry Johnson, Leon Washington, Michael Vick, New England Patriots, New York Jets, Ryan Grant, Ryan Moats, San Diego Chargers, Steve Slaton, Thomas Jones, Washington Redskins
If I’m running your average NFL team, I’m in no hurry to place a waiver claim on former Chiefs RB Larry Johnson. His age, the number of carries under his belt and his off-the-field issues all resonate loudly with me. I’m surprised, frankly, the Chiefs didn’t just release him in the first place and save about $300,000 in what became a drawn-out process.
I’d be surprised if anyone picked up the remainder of his $4.5 million contract in the next 24 hours on waivers.
But, this is an ultra competitive league, and with Johnson on the street as an unrestricted free agent, I’d expect someone to bring him in on the cheap. There are plenty of rudderless clubs that could use a running back. Washington has been auditioning them all season, well before Clinton Portis’ concussion. But given Johnson’s baggage and the lack of potential for some teams to salvage anything from 2009 (Cleveland and Tampa Bay have been thin in the backfield, for instance), I can’t see those teams making the move.
There are a handful of teams making a playoff push — or who hope to realistically make a playoff push — and someone from that group might go for it. Houston actually makes the most sense to me, given Steve Slaton’s fumbling issues. Ryan Moats had one big game, but as desperate as the Texans are to finally get into the postseason, I could see the allure. Green Bay recently brought back veteran Ahman Green, and Johnson should be in better game shape than he is (though Green knows the system better). As a backup to Ryan Grant, it could make some sense.
The Colts have been without rookie Donald Brown, and the run game has been very erratic. Johnson could be more of a bulldozer to at least try to get some tough yards in certain situations. Brian Westbrook’s concussion is a concern for the Eagles, and the NFC East typically becomes run dominated in the second half. We know the Eagles are willing to take a chance on a guy (see, Michael Vick), though the degree of Johnson’s social rehabilitation remains in question.
The Chargers already have one aging former All-Pro back on the roster in LaDainian Tomlinson. It’s another team under serious heat to reach the postseason and could well kick around this idea in the front office. The Jets run the ball more than anyone in the NFL, Thomas Jones has already carried a bunch, and with Leon Washington out for the season, they could be a match. Bill Belichick has lost a bunch of RBs to injury and has been adept at picking up older players off the scrap heap, but I’m not sure ownership would want to go there on this one even if it ended up making some sense from a personnel standpoint.