His desire to chase a Super Bowl with a team that reached the NFC Championship Game without him fueled Johnson’s decision to rebuff interest from the Miami Dolphins and New England Patriots to return to the Cardinals on a one-year deal, which he signed on Thursday.
“I just felt like it was the best place for me,” Johnson told ESPN. “I wanted to finish something we started as a team, and we got so close to the Super Bowl so I just feel like it was the best place for me.”
But Johnson likely won’t be handed the starting job as the Cardinals’ featured running back that he had before fracturing his tibia in Week 12 against San Francisco.
The Cardinals appeared to find their starting running back of the future down the stretch last season in rookie David Johnson. After replacing Chris Johnson, who was fourth in rushing when he went down, David Johnson became the NFL’s third-leading rusher over the final five weeks of the season, according to ESPN Stats & Information.
“He came on strong once I got hurt but we just both had a big year,” Chris Johnson said. “Not sure how things are going to go but I’m pretty sure we’ll have a nice one-two punch. He got his certain things that he do very well and I do thing that I do well. I think B.A. (coach Bruce Arians) will know how to get us both the ball.”
Johnson was buried on the depth chart behind Andre Ellington when he signed with the Cardinals. He was starting by Week 2 and never relinquished the role.
Does Johnson think he’ll be starting by Week 1 this season?
“I’m not sure,” he said.
Aside from playing for a title contender, one major factor in Johnson’s decision to re-sign with Arizona was Arians.
Johnson said Arians’ honesty and offensive ingenuity were two reasons he enjoyed playing for Arians last year, and the fact that Arians gave Johnson an opportunity with the Cardinals resonated with the 30-year-old running back.
“Loyalty played a big part in it,” Johnson said. “B.A. played a big part of it.”
He said he was courted by the Patriots and Dolphins, even going as far as visiting Miami. The Dolphins would’ve been a “good opportunity,” Johnson said, but he felt the Cardinals were where he “needed to be.”
Johnson was satisfied with the one-year deal but has said in the past he wasn’t chasing a large check. He looked at Arizona as his best chance to win a title.
“When it just played out, it made sense for both sides,” Johnson said. “I didn’t want to be out there (in free agency) as long as I was last year and the interest was mutual on both sides, even when I first left them. I always knew where I wanted to be. It just had to make sense on both sides.”
“I don’t think there was another number out there that was just mind blowing to even make me want to go elsewhere.”