The Texans had the top passing offense in the NFL last year because Andre Johnson led the league in receiving yards.
Pay him, Rick.
Or pay him, Bob. Or pay him, Ricky Bobby.
Somebody please pay him — well, pay him more. That is what whoever will make the final call for the Texans should do with receiver Andre Johnson, the best player in franchise history.
And it is what Texans general manager Rick Smith and owner Bob McNair will do. Eventually.
Johnson's decision not to attend the team's first voluntary workout of the offseason Monday is step one in what might be a lengthy trek to a settlement, but only a step.
Negotiations can't truly become contentious until there is some actual negotiating.
The team and Johnson haven't discussed numbers. Johnson has not said what he wants. (More money than any other receiver in the NFL, I presume.) The team has not said what it would like to pay him. (Less than that, I am certain.)
We can't even find room in the middle until the parameters are established.
That's how early we are into this.
Johnson, 28, has leverage in how important he is to the team and how key this season could be to the future of so many. (A collapse means heads will roll.) The Texans have leverage in that, well, they're an NFL team. NFL teams almost invented leverage.
With five years remaining in their current agreement and the league facing an uncertain labor situation, it seems unlikely Johnson and the Texans would negotiate a new contract. The Texans have no reason to do that.
To many of you, Johnson's stance doesn't seem right. How could a guy sign a contract and get out of it with five years remaining? Not as easily as if the Texans were done with Johnson and wanted out of the deal. They would tell him to find employment elsewhere.
Smith said renegotiating with five years remaining on a contract is “not customary,” and “not common.” It's pretty much unheard of. And that's a problem.
The challenge probably is for the Texans to revise Johnson's contract with enough money being moved forward so Johnson could be happy this season and the Texans could avoid the wrath of other teams, who would be upset at them if they tore Johnson's contract up and started anew.
For those concerned about the Texans setting a bad precedent by paying Johnson more than his contract calls for, this is the precedent: If you are the best player in the league at your position, you will be paid as such.
Not that you need convincing of just how good Johnson is, but the Texans had the top passing offense in the NFL last year because Johnson led the league in receiving yards. He is the most consistently difficult cover in the league.
Even those who claim somebody else is the best receiver (anyone who argues a player other than the Cardinals' Larry Fitzgerald should be ignored) can't find anything negative to say about Johnson. That's how good he is. (And playing for a team that has never been to the playoffs isn't a negative on Johnson.)
He has practiced hard to be the best. He has played hard and proved he is the best. Pretty hard to come up with reasons for him not to be paid like the best.
What is so wrong about that?
Johnson is slated to make only $5.8 million base pay this season. Yes, only.
The amount shouldn't matter. That is just a distraction. If it helps, look at it as play money. Football is a game, right?
Texans fans shouldn't worry about Johnson's situation. Well, unless you saw Jacoby Jones lining up in his spot at Monday's fake practice and had nightmares about seeing that going forward.
The last thing the team wants is an unhappy player leading it.
There is even a chance Johnson, having made his point, might be sweating in the heat before these “practice” practices end in a couple of weeks. Missing these workouts should have no effect on his performance this season and won't ruin his status as a team leader. Teammates understand it is a business decision.
If you're that upset with him for not attending, look up the word voluntary in your dictionary.
The Texans aren't even upset.
“I'm not worried about Andre,” coach Gary Kubiak said. “Andre will do his job; he'll be ready to play.”
Publicly, Smith has done a superb job dealing with contract issues. He has kept negotiations behind close doors, never saying anything he wished he could take back.
During the contentious Dunta Robinson negotiations last year, Smith never provided a sound bite to remember. That's the smart way of doing things.
Smith is off to a good start handling this situation. He knows the team would rather not renegotiate, but he understands the club would rather not go into the season with its best player unhappy or, under the least likely scenario, sitting out.
“We're willing to sit down and talk with him, and he knows that,” Smith said.
When you do, please bring McNair's checkbook.