clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Buccaneers need a running back, and David Johnson may need a team, in 2020

In a move which would draw mixed reactions, Bruce Arians could reunite with yet another former player if rumors are true.

Atlanta Falcons v Arizona Cardinals Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images

Could the Arizona Cardinals eat north of $16 Million in dead cap by releasing running back David Johnson? According to reports, they certainly might, and it would make the 28-year old ball carrier an attractive option for many teams, including the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Johnson isn’t the same running back he was back in 2016 when he led the league with more than 2,000 yards of total offense. Due to injury, Johnson played in just one game the following season, and then returned in 2018 gaining just shy of 1,400-yards for the Arizona Cardinals.

Then came Kliff Kingsbury, Kyler Murray and a scheme which simply doesn’t appear to fit what Johnson brings to the field. In 2019, Johnson played in thirteen games, touched the ball just ten times per game on average, and gained fewer than 800-yards from scrimmage.

Not the role Johnson wants, and not the role his salary can justify. So the Cardinals are left in a precarious situation. They need to move him, and obviously, a trade would the be the most advantageous move as it would save them some dead cap space and net them a draft pick or two in return.

But, there’s speculation Johnson isn’t just a bad fit in Arizona now. There are those who think the toll being taken on his body are getting the best of the running back nearing the dreaded 30-year old mark. Some feel he looks tentative at best, and scared at worst.

Either way, it just isn’t working. And if the Cardinals can’t get any trade value for him, they’re left with just one option. Releasing him, and eating a TON of dead cap.

Josh Weinfuss of ESPN wrote in a collective project on the website, that this move was coming. Although, it’s important to remember, the collection of 32 NFL predictions is as speculative as it is interesting.

About the Cardinals, Weinfuss wrote,

He’s scheduled to earn $10.2 million in 2020, with the entire amount guaranteed on the third day of the league year. But Johnson’s production continued to dwindle in 2019. He ran for just 345 yards, caught 36 passes for 370 yards and was benched throughout the season in favor of Kenyan Drake. While it’s not a guarantee that the Cardinals will bring back Drake, Johnson probably will be a casualty of his production and contract going in opposite directions.

As we mentioned in the beginning of this writing, Johnson coming available as an unrestricted free-agent would be big news to any team looking for a running back, and the Buccaneers are one of those. Because of the obvious ties between this coaching staff and Johnson, there might be even more interest in Tampa, Florida than any other NFL city.

Obviously, Johnson had his best year, during his second year under Arians. But even in his 2015 rookie season, Arians got more out of Johnson than Kingsbury did in 2019. Pairing Ronald Jones and David Johnson would make for an extremely interesting and talented duo, and if the elder of the two has any confidence issues, reuniting with the man who sparked his career in the first place would go a long way to help him rebound from those.

With around $50 Million in expected cap space in 2020, the Cardinals can afford the hit to their cap space, and still sign a key free-agent or two as they continue what is not likely considered a one or two year build, but a multi-year project toward returning the Cardinals to NFL relevance.

Still, it’s not the kind of move typically seen in the football world. Then again, neither is firing a head coach after one year, and trading a quarterback after the same single season in the league. So we already know the Cardinals are not about following trends, they’re about doing what they think is right for their team.

And if the team feels like Johnson isn’t a fit, and reports of his frustration are true and persistent, then there’s no reason to not believe the franchise won’t make yet another significant transaction this off-season.

Tampa Bay has plenty of needs entering the 2020 off-season, and after a 7-9 finish in 2019, there’s a lot of thought surrounding the team they might be just one key player or two away from becoming a legitimate NFL Playoffs contender. Could Johnson be one of those players?


What do you want the Bucs to do is David Johnson becomes available?

This poll is closed

  • 53%
    Sign Him
    (181 votes)
  • 19%
    Don’t Sign Him
    (66 votes)
  • 26%
    Sign Him and Draft a Rookie
    (89 votes)
336 votes total Vote Now