Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Just Give Him The Damn Geritol

Yahoo Sports is reporting that Keyshawn Johnson is mulling over joining the Dolphins after "retiring" last season and replacing Michael Irvin on ESPN as the fugly suit wearing ex receiver. Does a WR corps of Ted Ginn (and his family), Derek Hagan, and Me-shawn make your toes tingle? Not so much.

Keyshawn Johnson has a job that most of his former
NFL peers envy. The veteran wideout made a smooth segue from the football field
to the broadcast booth, and now he gets paid a hefty salary to talk about the
game on ESPN.

There's just one catch: After spending a season watching
many receivers he believes aren't as good as he was, Johnson is strongly
considering a comeback.

"I like challenges," Johnson told Yahoo! Sports
on Monday. "The challenge of helping to turn a team around, to help get it to
the next level, that gets my competitive fires burning. I have the itch, and
right now I'm trying to decide how strong that itch is."

Whether those
feelings will compel Johnson, who'll turn 36 in July, to return to the league
will likely depend on the way in which potential employers perceive his current
value. A three-time Pro Bowl selection with 10,571 career receiving yards,
Johnson says he'll decide in the next few days whether to pursue a return to the
playing field.

After catching 70 passes for 815 yards in 2006 with the
Carolina Panthers, his fourth team in 11 NFL seasons, Johnson was released and
attracted interest from several suitors, most notably the Tennessee Titans. In
May, he turned down a two-year contract offer worth nearly $8 million from the
Titans, instead signing a lucrative, four-year deal with ESPN.

Johnson declined to get into monetary specifics Monday, it is not likely that
his asking price has come down. Yet the amount of cash he is likely to seek from
an NFL team might not be realistic for someone in his situation.

wouldn't pay him that much," says Dallas Cowboys president Stephen Jones, who
has maintained a good relationship with Johnson since he was released by the
Cowboys following the 2005 season. "We have a player who is kind of like him in
Patrick Crayton, and age is an issue. Plus, he's been out of football for a
year, and it's not like (he got faster). Mother Nature doesn't work that way."

Another person who has final say over his team's roster expressed a
similar sentiment, saying, "He's a very good player, but if anything, his value
has gone down a little. He wasn't super fast to begin with, now he has been away
for a year."

Johnson has been working out regularly since January and
scoffs at the notion that his skills have diminished. It's true that many NFL
talent evaluators cite Johnson's blocking ability, willingness to battle
defenders on the backside during running plays and ability to make the tough
catches on third down and in the red zone as assets that transcend his
statistical value. He believes that he would also provide leadership and the
ability to mentor young receivers.

When he talks about "helping to turn
a team around," it's hard not to think about the Miami Dolphins. New Dolphins
vice president of football operations Bill Parcells has remained close with
Johnson, whom he coached in Dallas and New York (with the Jets, who made Johnson
the No. 1 overall pick out of USC in 1996), and the two spent last season
together appearing on ESPN's Sunday and Monday night pregame studio shows. The
two men speak frequently, though Johnson says they have not discussed his
possible signing with the Dolphins in anything but an abstract sense.

Parcells, through a Dolphins spokesman, declined to
comment on Johnson's potential return.

Other potential suitors could
include the Titans and Oakland Raiders, each of whom expressed serious interest
in Johnson last spring; the Redskins, who under owner Daniel Snyder have a
history of shelling out cash for big-name veterans; the Buccaneers, who inquired
about signing Johnson to a bargain-basement deal toward the end of the '07
regular season; and the Patriots, who reportedly will pass on picking up a $6
million option bonus for wideout Donte' Stallworth (thus making him a free
agent). Johnson is close with Patriots coach Bill Belichick, though it is
unlikely New England would covet Johnson at the numbers he believes he's worth.

The Bucs scenario is especially intriguing, given that Johnson was
deactivated (and essentially banished) for the final six games of the '03
regular season after he feuded with coach Jon Gruden, for whom he won a Super
Bowl the previous year. Yet Johnson, traded by Tampa Bay to the Cowboys for Joey
Galloway in March '04, gave serious consideration to the Bucs' offer last
December and says he absolutely is not averse to playing for Gruden again.

As athletes-turned-commentators go, Johnson has a pretty sweet situation
with ESPN and its parent company, Disney. Like Tiki Barber's deal with NBC,
which includes a part-time role for the ex-New York Giants halfback on the "The
Today Show," Johnson's pact includes potential for crossover appearances on
programs like ABC's "Dancing With Stars." On Monday he filled in for Jim Rome as
a guest host on ESPN's "Rome is Burning."

No comments: