Now a Titan, Rashad Johnson says Cardinals never made an offer to keep him

Mar 25, 2016, 1:00 PM | Updated: 10:54 pm
Arizona Cardinals free safety Rashad Johnson (26) during an NFL divisional playoff football game ag...
Arizona Cardinals free safety Rashad Johnson (26) during an NFL divisional playoff football game against the Green Bay Packers, Saturday, Jan. 16, 2016, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)
(AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)
LISTEN: Rashad Johnson - Tennessee Titans Safety

The Arizona Cardinals chose Rashad Johnson in the third round of the 2009 NFL Draft out of Alabama, and over the course of seven seasons with the team grew from a standout on special teams to a reliable safety.

In fact, over the last two seasons he seemed to progress as a playmaker, intercepting nine passes (including a team-leading five in 2015).

Yet, when his contract expired following this past season, the Cardinals apparently decided they were ready to move on, and Friday Johnson agreed to a one-year contract with the Tennessee Titans.

“When it came down to the offers and things of that nature, the Cardinals weren’t in the picture,” Johnson told Off the Edge with B-Train on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM Friday. “I mean, no offense to their vision and what they want to do with the team this coming season, but I received no offer from the Cardinals.

“So there wasn’t even an option for me to come back here.”

Johnson said from that point it was about determining what was best for him, and of the teams who expressed interest he decided the Titans were the best fit.

That the Cardinals were so willing to part with Johnson, who is regarded as a team leader and one of the most intelligent players on the team, may come as a bit of a surprise, but when the offseason began the organization made it clear it was hoping to add more length and speed to its secondary.

Their first addition during free agency was safety Tyvon Branch, and a couple weeks ago Cardinals coach Bruce Arians highlighted his coverage ability.

“He’s a very versatile, fast safety who can play man-to-man,” Arians said. “If you go back and you watch the Chiefs and the Patriots, he was locked on (Rob) Gronkowski. He’s that type of safety and you can’t have enough of them.”

In 75 career games Branch has intercepted four passes, which seems paltry when compared to Johnson’s 15. But where Branch has the advantage is in speed, as he ran a 4.31 second 40-yard dash at the Combine and, while maybe is not quite that fast now, still has better wheels than Johnson, who ran a 4.53 second 40 before he was drafted.

Despite the way things ended in Arizona, though, Johnson does not harbor any ill will. He said he will miss the fans who supported him over his time in the Valley, and enjoyed the passion the city had for the team.

“But what I’ll miss most, man, is my brothers,” he said. “The guys in that secondary — even when A-Dub (Adrian Wilson) was there to now with Tyrann (Mathieu) and Pat (Patrick Peterson) and Jerraud (Powers) and Deone (Bucannon) and Justin Bethel — it was bigger than football for us. We truly became brothers. We all were battling things throughout the season where we spent time after practice where we would pray for each other.”

Johnson said the bond they had is not always seen in NFL locker rooms, and he is confident their closeness played a role in the team’s level of success the last few seasons.

“We gelled in a way that had a greater goal and greater purpose than just winning games,” he said. “We really cared about each other’s life and cared about the next step in what we were going to do as men. That’s what I’m going to miss the most.”

Just because he is no longer on the team does not mean the bond will be broken, Johnson said, because in his words they will be family and friends forever and he’ll be sure to keep track of how they are doing every week.

But of course, Johnson will have his own business to take care of with the Titans, who will be looking to him to help lead their secondary while making the same kind of plays he did in Arizona.

He said the one-year contract he will be playing under is another sign of how many doubters he has, that the perception across the league is one of him being a product of Arizona’s system.

“So for me, it was let’s sign this one-year deal and show them I can do it in whatever system,” he said. “I mean, at the end of the day the numbers are the numbers and they speak for themselves. If anyone wants to question that I”ll just say, ‘Hey, let’s just do the one-year deal and I can prove my value to you and hopefully we can work on something long-term before the year is over.'”

Last season, along with his five interceptions, Johnson contributed 59 total tackles as well as eight passes defensed and one fumble recovery. In his career, he has notched 330 defensive tackles, 18 passes defensed, three fumble recoveries and one forced fumble.

Now 30, the native of Sulligent, Alabama sees Tennessee as a chance to show what he can do for an up-and-coming team that has made some big moves this offseason.

“They’ve got a quarterback in (Marcus) Mariota, who’s a young guy, who’s going to grow each and every year, is going to be a great guy in this league; the addition of DeMarco Murray was important,” he said. “And then looking at the defensive side of the ball, those guys played great ball last year on defense.

“Dick LeBeau is a legend, understands the game. And then for me, it’s also the opportunity to be able to get closer to home, closer to family, things you can’t really buy, for me.”

It also helped his decision that, simply, the Titans had a desire to bring him to Nashville.

“When a team comes after you and a team expresses their want and continues to stick with you even though you’re taking your time in the process, and they continue to show their want and their need for you, that said a lot for me,” he said. “I’ve always wanted to be where I was wanted, and Tennessee was the place.”

But while his new home is across the country, Johnson said he will always carry Cardinals fans and the BirdGang in his heart.

“I was able to grow so much here and was able to experience so many great things,” he said. “And I thank the fan base for always sticking with it during the down times early in my career to seeing us being able to turn things around to where they are now. I’m just proud I was able to have a hand in that. I truly appreciate them.

“I wish things could have been different as well — I’ve been here for seven years, I’ve always had a dream of retiring as a Cardinal and finishing my career out here, but sometimes God closes doors for you, and I can’t walk through a door that’s closed. For me, I had to take what was open and I’m excited about the opportunity of being a Tennessee Titan.”

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