Texans rookies Derek Stingley, Jalen Pitre may have taken Lonnie Johnson’s spot

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When teams draft a veteran’s presumptive replacement, there are a myriad of ways they can react. Sometimes they punch windows out at a bar, other times they post goodbye videos on social media.

Count Houston Texans defensive back Lonnie Johnson as the latter.

The former 2019 second-round pick from Kentucky took to Twitter on Monday to post a video of himself running out of the tunnel at NRG Stadium ahead of the club’s Dec. 15, 2021 tilt with the Indianapolis Colts, in which Houston got pummeled 31-0 on Battle Red Day.

“Before y’all get to talking krazy on this app I asked for this myself thank you @HoustonTexans for the opportunity,” Johnson wrote. “This isn’t a farewell this is more like see ya soon.”

If Johnson “asked for this myself,” it could be nothing more than a trade request. Presuming Johnson indeed requested a trade, it could be because the 26-year-old from Gary, Indiana, sees the handwriting on the wall.

It would be one thing if the Texans drafted LSU cornerback Derek Stingley No. 3 overall in Round 1 of the 2022 NFL draft. Johnson could find utility as a safety in Lovie Smith’s Tampa 2 scheme. After all, the club experimented with his 6-2, 213-pound frame on the backend. Why not make it official for job security?

When Houston picked Baylor safety Jalen Pitre No. 37 overall in Round 2, all of Johnson’s sand atop the hourglass had fallen to the bottom. Why have Johnson transition to a defensive back spot that he wasn’t really that good at anyway? Pitre forged his career around playing safety; Johnson was put there because the physical traits were there.

If Johnson is on the way out, his career is one that got lost in the shuffle of the Bill O’Brien era. Then-defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel played Johnson as a cornerback — exactly what he was in college. In 2020, then-defensive coordinator Anthony Weaver experimented with Johnson as a safety, and Smith fully converted him in 2020. Johnson did play some cornerback though when numbers were thin. Overall, such shuffling between cornerback and safety curtailed his development, and the Texans didn’t get good value out of a second-round pick’s career.