Redskins coach Mike Shanahan is gambling that former Chiefs running back Larry Johnson will be so thankful to have a job that he won't be a distraction in the locker room. I'm not so sure that Johnson's ability warrants taking that type of risk.
In 2005 and 2006, Johnson was one of the two or three best backs in the league. He had back-to-back 1,700-yard seasons, but in '06, he had a staggering 416 carries. He's basically never recovered from taking all that punishment. So I wouldn't look at him like a typical 30-year-old running back. In fact, I think players in his age bracket such as LaDainian Tomlinson, Willie Parker, Brian Westbrook and Thomas Jones all have more tread left than Johnson.
He's a power back who's not a great change-of-pace back for the Redskins, unless they actually want someone slower than Clinton Portis. Here's what Johnson told ESPN 980 Thursday evening:
"There hasn't been a real good running back tandem in the league [for a while]," said Johnson. "There's always been one guy or three guys. It'd be just like how me and Priest Holmes was way back in the day. It'd be nice to be able to play aside somebody like that."
Hmm...I don't quite see Portis-Johnson rivaling Holmes-Johnson. And it's funny to hear Johnson recall that pairing with such fondness. Johnson and Holmes did not have a good relationship in Kansas City. In fact, Johnson once told a few of us on a conference call before a Cowboys-Chiefs game that Holmes had not been a mentor to him at all.
Johnson was brilliant for two seasons in the league. But the last time he truly helped a team was 2006. I don't see Johnson being happy about playing second-fiddle to Portis, but that's what he'll be asked to do. This will go down as the first highly questionable signing by the Redskins.
Just because they apparently got Johnson on the cheap doesn't make it a good decision.