In a move which could assure that wide receiver Andre Johnson plays his entire career in a Houston Texans uniform, and also creates salary cap room for 2007 that will permit officials to pursue some free agents, the team on Saturday signed its best player to a six-year contract extension.
The deal is worth $60 million and includes $15 million in guarantees.
Johnson had two seasons remaining on the original contract he signed as the Texans' first-round choice in the 2003 draft, at base scheduled base salaries of $5.25 million for 2007 and $7.75 million for 2008. Those base salaries were reduced, replaced in part by the signing bonus, and the Texans gained much-needed cap room with the maneuver.
It is believed the extension, which essentially created an eight-year deal counting the two season remaining on Johnson's original contract, carved out more than $6 million in new 2007 cap room.
"This is a great thing for us, because Andre is our best player, and he's going to be a Texan for a long time," general manager Rick Smith told the Houston Chronicle. "Not only are we ensured of keeping Andre, but we cleared some room under the cap, so it was a win-win situation."
Despite playing with inconsistent quarterback David Carr, and performing in a spotty offense, Johnson has emerged as one of the NFL's premier wide receivers. The former University of Miami standout led the NFL with 103 catches in 2006, for 1,147 yards and five touchdowns.
Johnson, 25, has twice posted 1,000-yard seasons and twice been voted to the Pro Bowl squad. The third overall player chosen in the 2003 draft, he has 311 career catches for 3,953 yards and 17 touchdowns. Johnson has played in 61 games, all as a starter.
Senior writer Len Pasquarelli covers the NFL for ESPN.com.