Cardinals Likely to Release Star RB David Johnson, Per Analyst

David Johnson

Getty Images Cardinals RB David Johnson was drafted 86th overall by the team in 2015.

Shortly after earning his first NFL start in Week 12 of his rookie season in 2015, Arizona Cardinals RB David Johnson quickly established himself as a household name among the league’s best running backs. His sophomore campaign in 2016 was one of the most productive seasons in NFL history with a league-leading 373 touches, 2,118 scrimmage yards, and 20 combined touchdowns.

After missing all but one game in 2017 due to a significant wrist injury, the Cardinals rewarded their new dynamic back with a three-year contract extension worth $39 million early in 2018. Arizona has mustered only eight combined wins over the past two years and Johnson’s production has suffered as a result, in addition to battling an ankle injury towards the middle of last season.

In an ESPN article published on Wednesday morning, NFL Nation reporters were asked to give one bold prediction for the upcoming season. For his 2020 forecast, Cardinals writer Josh Weinfuss highlighted the team’s star running back as a key piece who could be on the move.

The Cardinals will part ways with running back David Johnson, who was once considered the future face of the franchise.

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. — Josh Weinfuss

Aside from his $10.2 million base salary in 2020, Johnson carries a total salary cap hit of over $14 million. The Cardinals are dealing with a bit of a financial monkeywrench, however. Should Arizona choose to release the 28-year-old prior to June 1, they would incur over $16 million in dead cap money. Trading Johnson before then would instead drop the team’s dead cap hit to $6 million with $8.1 million in cap savings. Unfortunately for the Cardinals, trade partners are likely to be slim to none given the current structure of Johnson’s deal.

The fifth-year veteran would surely attract significant interest on the open market this spring should he find himself cut from the Cardinals in the coming days or weeks.

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For more NFL updates, follow Chris Licata on Twitter: @Chris__Licata

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