Safety Rashad Johnson is headed to the Titans after playing seven seasons in Arizona.
Rashad Johnson would have preferred to remain with the Cardinals.
The veteran safety knew, as the Cardinals evolved, that might not happen. When the team signed free agent safety Tyvon Branch recently, the reality was Johnson was going to have to move on. Friday, Johnson did that, agreeing to a one-year contract with the Tennessee Titans.
"It was a great run and will always have bird gang as my family," Johnson wrote in a text message. "Thanks to the fans, to
Wiz for drafting me, BA for giving me a chance to be a starter and leader on D these 3 yrs."
Both General Manager Steve Keim and coach Bruce Arians had talked going into the offseason about improving length and speed in the secondary. Branch delivers the speed, something Johnson didn't have. But Johnson – who understood his physical attributes weren't on par with someone like Patrick Peterson – parlayed his intelligence and understanding of the game into excellent play since ascending to the starting lineup.
Johnson, 30, was regarded as a coach on the field and in the meeting rooms and was a key leader. In seven seasons, he had 15 interceptions, including 10 the past two seasons – his only two as a full-time starter.
When Arians arrived, Johnson was inserted into the lineup. He then suffered the nasty loss of a fingertip during a play against the Saints in New Orleans. ("I've got nine more," he quipped 24 hours later.) Tyrann Mathieu slid into the lineup opposite Yeremiah Bell while Johnson was down to usurp the spot, but Johnson dealt with it professionally.
The past two seasons the Cardinals expanded their use of nickel packages and it was Johnson and Mathieu teaming up to start in the secondary. Those were also Johnson's best two seasons. Now he moves to a younger rebuilding Tennessee team in need of some leadership.
Images of the Cardinals defenders with interceptions in 2015