Player: David Johnson
Position: Tight End
Free Agent Status: Unrestricted
2016 Salary Cap Hit: $600,000
2016 Season Breakdown:
The Steelers waited all the way until May, well after the draft, before they brought back their former seventh-round draft pick in David Johnson, who essentially came in to replace Matt Spaeth in the offense as the second tight end, at least with the way that the season ended up unfolding.
In spite of the fact that he dealt with some injuries between 2012 and 2014, he has now played 16-game seasons in each of the past two years, starting five games for the Steelers in 2016 in his first season back with the team.
When he did sign, Johnson was given no assurances that he would even make the roster, and yet he did, even when all at the position were healthy, resulting in them keeping four tight ends plus a fullback on the roster, because they liked all of them.
They didn’t even give him a signing bonus at all, meaning that he could have walked away from this year with nothing, instead of his veteran-minimum contract, which qualified for a cap hit of just $600,000. And I’m sure the Steelers are more than glad that they chose to re-sign him.
Free Agency Outlook:
He might not be the most exciting offensive skill position play to hit free agency—he’s not even the most interesting player in the league with the same name—but re-signing David Johnson is a no-brainer in my book.
He is far from flashy, but Johnson is the best blocker at the tight end position that the Steelers have at the moment, which is why, toward the end of the season, they started replacing Jesse James with him when they moved to run-heavy looks with an extra lineman or a fullback.
The team also doesn’t have much in the way of sure things at the position right now what with Ladarius Green’s status being up in the air. He spent most of the year recovering from an ankle injury only to have his season ended by a serious concussion, from which he may still be recovering for all we know.
Bringing Johnson back will provide some stability, flexibility, and, quite simply, options for the Steelers at tight end. He may not light up the stat sheet—he caught seven passes for 80 yards and a two-point conversion, the second-best numbers of his career—but he is a good option as a blocker, both in-line and on the move.
And I’m just going to include this picture of Johnson securing a two-point conversion with one hand just because: