It's an end of an era for the Texans, as Johnson is easily the franchise's greatest player. In 12 seasons with Houston, Johnson's totaled 1,012 catches for 13,597 yards and 64 touchdowns. He's recorded seven 1,000-yard seasons and has gone over 1,500 yards three times.
It's safe to say Johnson wants to be on a playoff contender. He's not going to request a trade to the Raiders or Jaguars (no offense intended Oakland and Jacksonville). Given the limited playoff experience Johnson has had, he's going to want to wind up on a team with a shot at a Super Bowl title. And all things considered, it's going to be difficult for most teams to actually trade for him given his $16.1 million cap figure.
So let's assume he hits the free agent market after Johnson and the Texans are unable to find a suitor. Could the Ravens enter the picture?
Why this would make sense
The Ravens could use another quality receiver, especially if they're unable to sign Torrey Smith to a long-term deal. Any deal with Johnson, for any team, would likely be of the two- or three-year variety. Though the initial reaction is to assume Johnson would command a lot of money in a new deal, that may not be the case. He had a $5 million base salary in 2014 and the Ravens — assuming their salary cap situation sorts itself out — could wind up working out a deal for a $1-2 million base with a $2-3 million signing bonus spread out over three years or so.
With Johnson, the Ravens would get a 6-3, 230-pound receiver with a lot left to offer. In a downtrodden 2013 season, Johnson still managed 1,407 yards and five touchdowns. A year ago, with Ryan Fitzpatrick and Ryan Mallett at quarterback, Johnson saw his numbers decline. You'd likely be right to assume an uptick in production would come with Joe Flacco throwing him the ball.
Johnson's frame is also the ideal size for receivers in Marc Trestman's offense. Over the past two years, Trestman had Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery for his quarterbacks to throw to. It sure appears Trestman favors bigger receivers and Johnson would fit the bill as a No. 1 option with size and playmaking ability.
Why this would not make sense
Johnson will turn 34 this year. The Ravens already have a veteran, tough-guy receiver entering the second year of his end-of-career deal in Steve Smith. By bringing on Johnson, even if it's a deal that keeps his 2015 cap figure in the $2-3 million range, the Ravens would risk not being able to bring in a younger free agent option at any position that could contribute for additional seasons than Johnson would be able to.
Though it would seem Johnson has a lot left to give as a top receiving target, you have to wonder why the Texans are ready to move on. If they believed Johnson was still a No. 1 receiver, wouldn't they tell him this and either eat the salary cap cost or work on convincing him a restructured contract was best for both parties?
Instead, Johnson was reportedly asked to take a reduced role on offense. Maybe DeAndre Hopkins is more suited for Bill O'Brien's attack than Johnson? Either way, you have to wonder why the Texans would come to this conclusion if Johnson was still a top-three type of NFL receiver.
Instead of Johnson, the Ravens could either try and re-sign Torrey Smith, bring in a younger free agent option and/or draft a big receiver that seems suited for Trestman's offense.
Chances of it happening
As crazy as it sounds, I'll put the odds of this happening at 40/60, which may actually seem higher than most would think. The general, knee-jerk reaction is that this won't happen. But remember how everything worked out with Steve Smith a year ago. In a similar situation, the Ravens popped up out of nowhere and ultimately got a deal done. If the Ravens are unable to lock up Torrey Smith and Johnson hits the free agent market, he could easily step in and make an impact. This has the makings of a classic Ozzie Newsome pickup written all over it.
Of course, Johnson isn't a long-term face-of-the-franchise kind of receiver at his age. But he's another veteran presence that can help mentor some of the Ravens' younger receivers while forcing defenses to account for him on the field at all times.
For the Ravens to acquire Johnson, however, many things would have to work out a certain way. And Johnson would have to come at the right price for the front office.
You'd have to think Johnson would enjoy the opportunity of playing for a team like the Ravens. Having only been to the postseason twice in his career, he'd have a chance to finish his career with a club that has only missed the playoffs once since John Harbaugh took the team over.
And regardless of how anyone feels about this speculative move now, Johnson would immediately be adored by the Ravens fan base if brought on board.