The case for trading David Johnson

I’m fascinated by this thing local media and fanbases do when it comes to players or coaches they deem sacred, untouchable or misunderstood. If an idea they don’t like pops up, say for example, the Cardinals trading David Johnson, they shout, “Hot take!”, and hide behind the notion that nobody understands their team quite like they do.

So, it’s now outlandish to suggest Steve Keim should follow the formula that’s elevated the Patriots to “best-franchise-of-all-time” status?

If we’re honest, that’s what trading David Johnson before the October 29 trade deadline would be. Getting value for a player that is clearly being paid more than he’s worth, while the league still has a starry-eyed view of him. By the way, nobody should be more aware of Johnson’s value imbalance than the people that’ve watched every game.

David Johnson has a cap hit of $9 million this year, $14 million next year and $12 million in 2021. He missed all but one game in 2017, he was bottom ten in yards per rush in 2018 (3.6) and he’s only averaging 12 rushing attempts per game this year. To be fair, he’s had a very productive pass-catching season, averaging 50 receiving yards per game. But for a guy that’s now banged up again with a back injury, does the production match the contract? No. Even more importantly, his recent history doesn’t suggest he’ll be worth what he’ll be paid for the remainder of his contract.

“But Matt, you can’t predict the future!” I can’t, but correctly projecting what a player will be is the crux of what makes shrewd front offices so effective. The Patriots continually move on from players a year or two before they leave their prime. Why do they do that? The Patriots would rather move on too early with something to show for it than move on too late and get nothing.

Now, the Patriots can move on from players early because they always have a player-in-waiting to match that production. The Cardinals don’t always have that luxury. But they do right now. Chase Edmonds has been the more effective rusher than David Johnson all year. He averages 5.63 yards per rush compared to Johnson’s 3.9. When he got the chance to be the bell cow on Sunday, he went off for 126 yards on 27 carries against the Giants

Keep in mind, now is the perfect NFL era to capitalize on. Peter King recently wrote an article detailing the new NBA-like attitude general managers are taking towards team building. In a league where every team is rebuilding every 3-4 years anyway, contending teams are willing to trade the future for the now. In the past week, the Rams traded two first-round picks and a fourth-rounder for Jalen Ramsey, the Broncos traded fourth and fifth-round picks for Emmanuel Sanders and the Patriots gave up a second-round pick for Mohamed Sanu. Surely the Cardinals could get real value for David Johnson.

I will always argue for fans to be less emotionally attached to players in the NFL, because by nature of the sport, if you want your franchise to be successful long-term, big name players need to be moved on from.

We’d all admit that the Cardinals are a few years away from being true contenders, right? We’d all admit that based on his recent history, David Johnson wouldn’t be a large contributor in two or three years anyway, right? Let’s not forget, the Cardinals have some of the lowest cap space in the NFL. Unloading $26 million of Johnson’s cap hit could be significant as this team rebuilds.

On a per-year basis, David Johnson is the 4th highest-paid running back in the NFL, and he will be until 2021. The Cardinals could pray that he lives up to his contract, or they could get real, get value for him, and go with the younger and more productive Chase Edmunds. It’s not a “hot take”, it’s the Patriot way.






About Matthew Jarecki (371 Articles)
Student at Northern Arizona University. Beginning my sports writing career with Outside the League

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