Here’s the other shoe dropping. ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler first reported that the New Orleans Saints are signing running back David Johnson to their practice squad on Wednesday, with the team having previously released both of the backs on their practice squad (Jordan Howard and Derrick Gore). The Saints also tried to claim former Arizona Cardinals running back Eno Benjamin on the waiver wire, but were leapfrogged by the Houston Texans.
Johnson, who turns 31 in December, is one of the most-accomplished free agents on the market with 6,805 scrimmage yards and 57 combined touchdown runs and receptions in his 87-game pro career (he also put up 206 yards from scrimmage and scored a touchdown run in two playoff games as a rookie in 2015). He earned All-Pro and Pro Bowl recognition in 2016 after leading the NFL in touches (373), scrimmage yards (2,118), and combined touchdowns (20), though he’s struggled to reach those heights in the years since. Ironically, he also previously played for the Cardinals and Texans.
Now he’ll be backing up Alvin Kamara. Johnson tried out for the Saints in minicamp over the summer but couldn’t reach an agreement on contract terms. After joining the practice squad and replacing the two players New Orleans previously had there, he could be activated on Sunday and see some snaps on offense while Mark Ingram II continues to recover from a knee injury. Dwayne Washington is also on the 53-man roster but has mainly been limited to special teams reps.
So we’ll see if Johnson has anything left in the tank, but the Saints must invest in a better backup plan this offseason. Their running game hasn’t met expectations this season, partly due to injuries along the offensive line, but also just with the personnel available. Having someone who can help Kamara shoulder the load and maybe stand in for him if he’s suspended following an offseason incident would be valuable.