Cardinals running back Chris Johnson was trying to play a third season with the club in 2017.
Bruce Arians and the Cardinals weren't announcing any of their roster cuts Friday with Saturday's deadline to reach 53 players.
"Starting to make the roster moves," Arians said. "We'll have all those details at a later time."
Not surprisingly, however, some news wasn't going to stay under wraps, as it came out that veteran running back Chris Johnson was being released.
The Cardinals usually announce all their roster cuts at once, after the Saturday deadline has passed.
Johnson re-signed in July, just before training camp, ostensibly to back up starter David Johnson once again. But he also joined a running backs room that was crowded, with Kerwynn Williams, Andre Ellington and Elijhaa Penny.
Williams had played well last season after Chris Johnson suffered a season-ending groin injury in Week 4, and between his running ability and return skills – Williams will return kickoffs and punts with rookie T.J. Logan injured – his spot on the team was a lock. Penny would be the team's big back, a punishing runner who slimmed down in the offseason and who also has shown he can play special teams.
For a while, Chris Johnson's return looked like it would cost Ellington – who has struggled the past three seasons with injuries and regression in his play – a roster spot. But Ellington, who signed a one-year deal in the spring, has looked much more like the 2013 rookie sensation. He is running harder in traffic, something Arians had wanted to see. Ellington also is a good receiver, and would be able to fill the role David Johnson plays if Johnson were to get hurt.
Ellington is also younger than Chris Johnson, who fumbled twice and dropped a pass in his final preseason appearance in Atlanta last week. Johnson bounced back to gain 31 yards on six carries in the game, but when asked multiple times about Johnson's roster spot, Arians only said the battle was ongoing. Neither Johnson nor Ellington played in Thursday's preseason finale in Denver.
Chris Johnson has 9,537 yards rushing in his career, along with 55 touchdowns. He was among the league leaders in rushing in 2015, his first year with the Cardinals, after taking over as the starter from an injured Ellington. Johnson hurt his knee late in the year, however, opening the door for then-rookie David Johnson to start.
Last season, Chris Johnson had just 95 yards on 25 carries in four games backing up David Johnson before his injury.