Texans Reward Johnson With Raise

Texans Reward Johnson With Raise

Rewarding Andre Johnson will send the proper message in the locker room that the Texans understand greatness and are willing to reward it.

In the end, they both did the right thing, and if you love the Texans, this day should have made you feel good.

You knew how this was going to play out, didn't you? You knew it from the moment Andre Johnson skipped three offseason workouts.

He did it to let the Texans know he was unhappy with his salary and that he wanted a raise even though he had five years left on his contract.

I'm guessing he had planned the boycott, that he had gotten himself worked up as he thought about how many receivers were making more money.

None of them is better than Johnson. None of them has accomplished as much, and none is as important to his franchise as Johnson is to his.

In other words, he deserved the money. For those of you screaming about how a guy ought to live up to his contract, there's something else at play in NFL deals.

They're not like MLB and NBA contracts, which are usually guaranteed. NFL contracts include little guaranteed money, and if a player is playing badly or a team runs out of salary-cap space, that player gets cut.

But there's an understanding that if a player performs above his salary, he'll get a raise. And Johnson is way better than his salary.

Jerry Rice is the only other receiver since the merger to lead the NFL in receiving yards in consecutive years. Since 2006, Johnson has averaged 90.2 receiving yards per game, tops in the NFL.

Rewarding him would send the proper message in the locker room that the Texans understand greatness and are willing to reward it.

OK, back to the boycott. Johnson had a plan that would call attention to his situation and put pressure on the Texans to fix it.

Problem is, once it began, he was overcome by guilt. He hated not being out there with his teammates, and he hated calling this kind of attention to himself.

Gary Kubiak has been around hundreds of NFL players, and there's not a single one of them he respects more than Johnson.

Yet he's unlike many other NFL receivers in that he says about two mouthfuls a season. There's an advantage to that because when he speaks, teammates and coaches listen.

There was one time last season when the Texans fought and rallied to win. Afterward in the locker room, Johnson did something that stunned teammates.

He spoke up. Loudly. Forcefully. He told his teammates he was proud to be in the same locker room with them, told them he was inspired by them.

When he becomes the first Texan in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, players and coaches will use that talk to help explain that his greatness couldn't be measured just by numbers.

This story is also about Texans owner Bob McNair. Johnson's unhappiness put him in a tough situation.

NFL owners claim the player compensation system is broken, and they want changes when it expires after this season. To give a raise to a player with five years left on his contract would send a mixed message. He had to know that whatever he did for Johnson would be used by players to show owners were doing well.

From the first day Johnson returned to workouts, McNair said the Texans wanted to do the right thing for their best player and their franchise. Yes, McNair knew contracts aren't typically redone with five years left. But he acknowledged there are few players like Johnson.

General manager Rick Smith joked that if players started seeking new deals, he would advise them to play as well as Johnson, and then they might talk.

McNair's sense of fair play, his sense of commitment to his best player, overrode whatever concern he had about how a new deal would impact labor discussions. He told Smith to come up with something fair.

He got it done. And when the Texans announced it, Johnson fumbled to find the words to describe how good he felt about playing for the Texans.

McNair felt good, too. He spoke of Johnson finishing his career with the Texans and going into the Hall of Fame.

So Thursday, a season of expectation and optimism was interrupted by housekeeping as the NFL's best receiver became it's highest-paid receiver.

His new contract is a tribute to his greatness, but it's also a tribute to the Texans wanting to do the right thing. His contract might not mean a thing when it comes to beating the Colts or Cowboys because Johnson was going to play hard.

But it was an indication the Texans are run by reasonable, decent people, and that their best player is one as well. A win-win day.

richard.justice@chron.com

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