Is Texans’ Johnson underpaid?

Andre Johnson has never made headlines for anything but his on-field performance. So when news broke Monday that Johnson wasn’t attending voluntary OTAs with the Texans, it got our attention. 

Johnson, unhappy with his contract, has five years remaining on an eight-year, $60 million deal (including $15 million guaranteed) that will pay him a base salary of $5.8 million this season. That’s quite a few years left. The Texans, in fact, renegotiated Johnson’s last contract just three years ago with two years remaining.

It’s difficult in a sense to suggest that Johnson is underpaid, but comparatively speaking, it’s difficult to argue that he isn’t and that he hasn’t outperformed his deal when compared to the league’s other top receivers. NFL Network analyst Solomon Wilcots is impressed with Johnson’s status as a “five-tool” receiver, and swears that if you poll all 32 general managers, Johnson would be voted as the league’s best receiver. Over Larry Fitzgerald

“To be fair to Andre Johnson, if you compare his production and his salary next to the top receivers in the league, you see his production is right up there with Fitzgerald and everyone else,” Wilcots said. “So his salary should be, too. He’s clearly underpaid. I believe the Texans would not disagree with that, but I do believe they would say, ‘This is the deal he negotiated.’

“Let’s face it: His prime years are the next three seasons. “

For comparison’s sake, Fitzgerald signed a four-year, $40 million extension in 2008 that paid $33 million during the first three years and includes $30 million guaranteed. Brandon Marshall got a four-year, $47.5 million extension from the Dolphins that has $29 million due in the first three years.

Clearly, the timing and length of Johnson’s current deal, signed in 2007, are at the root of his dissatisfaction. 

Texans GM Rick Smith aptly used the words “very difficult” to describe the situation. While time remains before any type of mandatory team sessions, and a possible holdout, it would send a message to the rest of the roster if the Texans don’t take care of their best player. But it would also send a message if/when they do.

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