Pittsburgh Steelers 2012 Free Agents Analysis: FB/TE David Johnson

Onward we continue with our player by player look at the Pittsburgh Steelers 2012 Free Agents as do a complete breakdown of their 2011 season and look ahead to their pending 2012 free agency situation. The post we focus in on restricted free agent fullback/tight end David Johnson. Please check out the links at the bottom to the other free agent player analysis already completed.

Player: David Johnson

Position: Fullback/Tight End

Experience: 3 Years

Free Agent Status: Restricted

2011 Salary Cap Hit: $536,068.00

2011 Season Breakdown: Johnson was asked to pretty much do it all on offense for the Steelers in 2011 as he lined up as at tight end, fullback, h-back and played on special teams once again. The Steelers lost tight end Matt Spaeth via free agency and Johnson went from the #3 to the #2 tight end spot as a result. His offensive snaps increased from 330 in 2010 to 478 in 2011 with the climb up the depth chart. As far as his pass catching and route running went in 2011, there is not much to talk about as he was only thrown to 16 times including the playoffs. He caught 12 of those 16 passes for 91 yards and 1 touchdown, which came against the Tennessee Titans back in week 5. 5 of his 12 receptions produced first downs with his longest reception going for 25 yards in the second game against the Baltimore Ravens. He did have 2 drops on the season with the second one coming in the AFC Wild Card game against the Denver Broncos. Johnson\’s contributions came as a blocker, in both the running and passing game. When you look at his entire body of work from 2011 as a blocker it was not bad. He had his share of very nice blocks in the running game, both as a tight end and a fullback, but there were also plays where he flat out whiffed or did not get to his desired target. He did improve greatly in his 3rd year in my opinion, but is a much better fullback than a second tight end. He graded out in the positive according to my charting as opposed to negative score I gave him last year. He gave up very few pressures when in pass protection, but did struggle a few times in blitz recognition. Another thing I noticed is that he is not 100% assignment sound, as there were a handful of plays were it appeared he was lost on. Special teams wise he was just another body, but only had 1 special teams penalty charged to him.

Free Agency Outlook: Johnson is a restricted free agent and before offensive coordinator Bruce Arians was turned loose, I thought he might be a slam dunk to be tendered at the lowest restricted free agent level, but now I am not so sure. Depending on who the Steelers decide will be the next offensive coordinator will likely figure into the future of Johnson. Also would a player such as Johnson be in high demand in free agency? Is a player like Johnson easily replaceable? I would say no to the first question and yes to the second one right now. An estimated original round tendered salary of around $1.25 million could be spent on two roster spots and the Steelers will need to pinch every place they can this offseason salary cap wise. Should Johnson not be tendered, and get no attention in free agency, they could sign him back to a one-year contract at the minimum for his time accrued and save roughly a half a million if they wanted him to compete for a roster spot. What I considered a slam dunk just a matter of a couple weeks ago, I can no longer say with certainty. I now consider him a 50/50 proposition to return in 2012 and would not be surprised which ever way it turns out. Johnson was a 7th round pick back in 2009 and they have already gotten their return on investment in my opinion. Should Johnson indeed be back at training camp, he will have plenty of competition to face and will not be a lock to make the Steelers 53 man roster.

Other 2012 Steelers Free Agent Player Analysis
Mike Wallace – Restricted Free Agent
Keenan Lewis – Restricted Free Agent
Doug Legursky – Restricted Free Agent
Ramon Foster – Restricted Free Agent
Ryan Mundy – Restricted Free Agent
Jamon Meredith – Restricted Free Agent
Jerricho Cotchery – Unestricted Free Agent
Max Starks – Unestricted Free Agent
Mewelde Moore – Unestricted Free Agent
Byron Leftwich – Unestricted Free Agent
Charlie Batch – Unestricted Free Agent
Dennis Dixon – Unestricted Free Agent

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