Work in Sports
Johnson agrees to deal, trade to be finalized Wednesday
Posted: Wednesday April 12, 2000 12:53 PM
A trade sending the two-time Pro Bowl receiver from the New York Jets to Tampa Bay was worked out earlier in the day. It was put on hold until Wednesday morning, when a source said it will be made official.
The New York Daily News reported Johnson's deal is for eight years worth $53 million, including a $13 million signing bonus, which will make Johnson the highest-paid receiver in NFL history.
Jerome Stanley, Johnson's agent, and the Bucs originally had trouble settling on the size of a signing bonus. That's why the Bucs said Tuesday night the sides will meet in the morning and that nothing was finalized.
But Johnson told Pro Football News and Injury Report that it was a done deal.
"I'm excited," he said. "I'm excited about the opportunity to start over again, to go in and prove myself all over again. I welcome the challenge. I think Tampa Bay is getting a fine receiver."
And the Jets are getting the 13th and 27th picks in the draft, giving them four first-rounders -- they previously owned the 16th and 18th spots.
Tampa Bay originally offered Johnson a deal that would average just over $6.5 million a year for either four or five years. The final contract dwarfs what Johnson would have made -- $2.4 million this year -- under the deal he signed when the Jets made him the No. 1 overall selection in the 1996 draft.
No team ever has had four selections in the opening round. Previously, the Jets got the 16th choice from New England for allowing Bill Belichick to become Patriots coach, and owned the 18th.
Johnson threatened to hold out if the Jets didn't renegotiate his contract, which had two years remaining at an average of about $2 million. That was well below the going rate for a receiver with his credentials, but the team historically does not redo contracts with more than a year remaining.
"It wasn't that the Jets didn't want me as a football player," Johnson told Pro Football News and Injury Report. "I think the thing is that they're up against the cap and they're pressed and they really can't afford to spend money to pay certain guys' market value."
In his four seasons since being the top overall choice in 1996, Johnson has caught 305 passes for 4,108 yards and 31 touchdowns. He has become one of the league's most versatile and dependable receivers, even though only in 1998 with Vinny Testaverde did he have a high-quality quarterback throwing to him.
Johnson becomes the best receiver the Bucs ever have had. But he goes from a well-balanced, imaginative attack to one of the most staid offenses in football. He won't have a veteran at quarterback, either, with second-year pro Shaun King behind center.
But he'll have plenty of bucks.
The Jets, who claim they are strapped by the salary cap and couldn't afford to renegotiate with Johnson, will have plenty of draft leverage. They could use a combination -- or all -- of the four picks to move way up. Or they could select four youngsters who could fill their holes on the defensive line, at tight end, in the secondary and, with Johnson gone, at wideout.
When Jets chief of football operations Bill Parcells began shopping Johnson last month, he focused on Baltimore, which owns the fifth overall pick. When that fell through, Parcells and new coach Al Groh said Johnson wasn't going anywhere.
But when they found out he wouldn't be going to the offseason workout program and almost certainly would not be at minicamp or the start of training camp, the Jets went shopping again.
In Tampa, they found a willing partner with the right collateral.