Friday's news that Rashad Johnson was signing with the Titans was not a surprise. The safety had visited them, and it was becoming pretty clear the Cardinals were moving on at the position. Johnson confirmed as much when he said the Cardinals did not extend him an offer to stay. It's a harsh business, the NFL, and this was one of those cases. Johnson was one of the few players left who dated back to the Kurt Warner era (Johnson was a rookie on the 2009 team during Warner's final season). His stint echoed his college career, in which Johnson started as a walk-on at Alabama and finished a starter and team captain.
In Arizona, he was an unheralded third-round draft pick who took a while to find regular playing time. He re-signed the last time his contract was to expire before he hit free agency, and eventually became a key cog in the secondary. But he was more than that. Johnson was a leader on the entire defense, a coach on the field (the man will be coaching someday when his career is over. He once told me high school coaching appealed more than anything to him, but would I be surprised if he ended up in the NFL? Nope.)
Steve Keim has shown how he will move on from older players no matter what they have meant to the franchise. The Cards cut Lyle Sendlein last year (although Sendlein ended up coming back for one more year -- I don't expect him to return in 2016) and Keim even released good friend Adrian Wilson at one point. Johnson is still playing, of course, but it reminds me of Larry Fitzgerald's line a couple weeks ago how, in this game, you are usually retired instead of retiring.
As has been the case with long-term guys around here, though, I'll just remember the man. The Cardinals have plenty of good guys in the locker room, guys that are easy to go to when you need some comments in my line of work. But there was no one better than Johnson, who could talk with perspective on any subject (the whole 2015 secondary was pretty good at that, actually) and saw the big picture. As usual, he seemed to understand what was happening as the season was over and what the future was, that a full career in Arizona was probably not going to happen. This is, most of the time, how it works. Even in a different uniform, though, he's a guy you root for.