David Johnson‘s first free agency foray has been quiet, but the seven-year veteran running back will make his first offseason visit. The Saints are set to host the former Cardinals and Texans starter Monday, Nick Underhill of NewOrleans.football tweets.
New Orleans has Alvin Kamara and Mark Ingram under contract, but the former was arrested in February and the latter is going into his age-33 season. The Saints are otherwise thin in the backfield, and Johnson is one of the better options available.
While Johnson’s past five seasons have not come especially close to his monster 2016 showing, the veteran back has done well for himself. The Cardinals gave their third-round find a three-year, $39MM extension in 2018, and the Northern Iowa alum played out that contract with the Texans.
Beyond that All-Pro sophomore slate, injuries and his inclusion in 2020’s DeAndre Hopkins trade — a widely panned deal that sent Johnson and two draft choices to Houston for the perennial Pro Bowl wideout — has defined Johnson’s career. But he delivered stretches of productivity in Houston. In 2020, Johnson totaled 1,005 scrimmage yards in 12 games, averaging 4.7 yards per carry. The Texans brought him back on a restructured deal last year but minimized his role. Johnson started just four games and amassed only 453 scrimmage yards, ceding time to some of the newcomers in Houston’s unusually assembled, veteran-filled backfield.
Johnson, 30, suffered a wrist injury that ended his 2017 season after one game. Although he did not clear 1,000 yards rushing upon return in 2018, the 940 he did compile marked somewhat of an achievement due to the Cardinals’ offensive nosedive that year. Still, nothing Johnson has done comes close to his 2016 year under Bruce Arians, one that featured 2,118 scrimmage yards and 20 touchdowns — both figures leading the league.
The Saints did not draft a running back, but they do have holdovers Tony Jones and Dwayne Washington still rostered. A 2020 UDFA, Jones missed time due to injury last season but only averaged 2.6 yards per carry (on 54 totes) in the games he played. The Saints re-signed Washington, who has been a key special-teamer with the franchise since 2018, this offseason.
Kamara was charged with battery resulting in substantial bodily harm in connection with a Las Vegas incident. The sixth-year star could face a 2022 suspension. Ingram, Johnson’s Texans teammate for a stretch in 2021, stands to be Kamara’s backup on a $1.5MM base salary.