Per game, Andre Johnson has case for best ever

Andre Johnson has been a quiet giant in the NFL pass-catching industry for over a decade with the Houston Texans.

His blend of height, fierce competitiveness -- while running routes and with the ball in the air -- coupled with an always frighteningly toned body, deceptive speed and springy athleticism, made him one of the most productive receivers in league history.

Some have forgotten that Johnson had a 39-inch vertical at 230 pounds at his combine, and ran a 4.40 at his pro day.

(For perspective, a 220-pound Julio Jones had a 38.5-inch vertical at the 2010 combine.)

Now in the sunset of his NFL playing career, the soon-to-be 34-year-old wideout finds himself in an interesting situation.

Does he stay with the upstart Texans, who, at the very least, are a team that may be a few years away from Super Bowl contention? Or should he bolt to a squad ready to win a ring this season?

First, let's take a look back at how we got to this point.

The U
Johnson was a foundational piece of the glorious Miami Hurricanes of the early 2000s, an epic collection of teams that redefined swagger and shipped an absurd amount of future All-Pros to the NFL.

In 2001, 10 of Johnson's 37 receptions went for touchdowns, and he averaged 18.4 yards per catch. Miami won the national title.

The next year, the heavily-favored Hurricanes lost in the championship game to the Ohio State Buckeyes in extremely controversial fashion, but the 6-foot-2, 230-pound rock of a receiver actually upped his yards-per-catch average to 20.0 while hauling in nine more scores.

In what ultimately became one of the worst draft decisions at wide receiver in NFL history, in the 2003 draft, the Detroit Lions picked speedster Charles Rogers from neighboring Michigan State No. 2 overall, which allowed the Texans to land Johnson with the third pick.

With David Carr and Tony Banks as his quarterbacks, the former All-American snagged 66 passes for 976 yards with four touchdowns as a rookie.
The Best Ever Per Game

There aren't many who'd list Johnson as the greatest wide receiver ever, but on a game-by-game basis, the numbers, well, just take a look.
Among those who played at least 120 games in their professional careers, Johnson is the only wideout in NFL history reach an average of 80 yards receiving per game.

Andre Johnson
Torry Holt
Marvin Harrison
Jerry Rice*
Lance Alworth*
Michael Irvin*
Terrell Owens
Anquan Boldin172
Brandon Marshall136
Larry Fitzgerald170

That's top-of-resume, Hall-of-Fame-worthy stuff right there.

Johnson led the NFL in receptions (103 and 115) in 2006 and 2008 and receiving yards (1,575 and 1,569) in 2008 and 2009.

That remarkable two-year run was followed by an 86-grab, 1,216-yard, eight-touchdown 2010, a dazzling stat line he accomplished while playing in just 13 games.
A few other records Johnson owns: he's the only player in league history with 60-plus grabs in his first eight seasons, and the only player with four seasons with both 100-plus catches and 1,400-plus yards

Oh, and no player has more 10-plus reception games than Johnson's 22. Jerry Rice had 17 such games in the regular season.

Not exactly playing for a contender
Because the Texans were in their second year as a franchise when they drafted Johnson, most realized it would take a few years for the team to become competitive in the AFC.

But a few years turned into nearly a decade in the NFL for Johnson before Houston advanced to the postseason.

On both occasions -- at the end of the 2011 and 2012 seasons -- the Texans beat the Cincinnati Bengals in the first round but were defeated by Baltimore Ravens
the first time around and the New England Patriots in his last postseason appearance.

In four playoff games, the consistently prolific Johnson amassed 25 receptions for 358 yards with a touchdown.

During his pro career, Houston has only managed an 84-108 record, and Johnson's been on a pair of two-win teams.

Not that the lack of success the Texans have had diminishes the achievements of the stud wideout, but unfortunately, it would have been a treat to witness him in the spotlight of many more super-important games.

The fight
The Texans' continuous struggles likely irked Johnson, and his frustration bubbled over in the fourth quarter of a late November 2010 outing against the divisional rival Tennessee Titans and chippy cornerback Cortland Finnegan.

After being pressed at the line by Finnegan aggressively and high, Johnson instantly retaliated by ripping the defensive back's helmet off. The two spun around, and Johnson's lid flew yards down the field before the much larger wideout landed punches to Finnegan's head.

It was one of the ugliest on-field brawls between two players in a long time and led to a fine of $25,000 for each.

Something tells me both Johnson and Finnegan probably would have been suspended if the fight went down last season.
What's next?
Occasional injuries have nagged Johnson throughout his career. He missed seven games in 2007, three games in 2010, and nine games in 2011.

However, he's been on the sidelines for only one game over the past three years.

After Matt Schaub's drastic decline that led to his release, Houston has started T.J. Yates, Matt Leinart, Case Keenum, Ryan Mallett and Ryan Fitzpatrick.
Unsurprisingly, with some of those signal-callers, Johnson had his worst season in 2014 since his rookie campaign.

Then again, he still racked up 85 catches, 936 yards with three scores. As a part of the seven-year, $62.7 million contract he signed in 2010, Johnson is set to be a $16.1 million cap hit in 2015.

In December, he said "I hope it all works out, where I can finish my career here and hopefully get this organization a Super Bowl before I retire," per the Houston Chronicle.

Will Johnson be willing to take a pay cut by way of a contract restructure? If not, a handful of playoff-ready teams would likely love to add a player of Johnson's caliber despite his age.

Regardless of what happens, Johnson, one of the consummate NFL receiving technicians of the 21st century, has had a career worthy of Hall of Fame consideration.

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