The Arizona Cardinals have several decisions to make with regard to their backfield, but cutting David Johnson is not an option for the time being. General manager Steve Keim said during a recent radio interview that “cutting [Johnson] is not an option,” according to beat writer Darren Urban.
Johnson is coming off a disappointing 2019 season, and what has been a disappointing run since his breakout 2016 performance. There was thought that he would be in line for big numbers with the arrival of Kliff Kingsbury, but he was slow out of the gate and then slowed by a sprained ankle.
When Johnson and Chase Edmonds both went down with injuries, the Cardinals traded for Miami Dolphins running back Kenyan Drake. He had a big debut on Halloween against the 49ers with 162 total yards and a touchdown, and quickly moved past Johnson and Edmonds on the depth chart.
In the interview above, Keim mentioned that “you can’t just have one back” in your backfield. The Cardinals were living proof of that in 2019. This offseason, Drake is a free agent. Johnson was an unlikely cut candidate given the guaranteed money on his deal. He’s got $10.5 million in guaranteed money on top of the remaining $6 million pro-rated signing bonus money. If he’s cut, the Cardinals will be carrying $16.2 million in dead money. If he’s traded, they will only carry the $6 million in signing bonus pro-ration.
This all suggests that if the Cardinals can extend Drake, don’t be shocked if they try and trade Johnson at some point. Edmonds is signed through 2021 on his rookie contract, and at times has looked better than Johnson. It’s unlikely the Cardinals find someone willing to take on Johnson’s big guarantee, but that won’t stop them from shopping him.