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Journeyman: The Josh Johnson Story

Image Credit: (Ron Chenoy/USA Today Sports)

Written by: Nicholas Mullick Linkedin:

Twitter: @nicholasmullick

In sports, to me, there are always multiple tiers to a type of player. One of these tiers is called the Journeyman. Now a Journeyman is a player who has played on multiple teams throughout his career. When you think of a journeyman at the quarterback position you think of Josh McCown, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Vinny Testaverde, and many more. However, to me, there is one man that not only defines the definition of a journeyman but with how large his resume it could probably fill 4 pages. His name is Josh Johnson and it's amazing how many teams this man has played for. So I thought why not go through his story of how he started his career in pro football, to where he is today.

So he would start in the NFL with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as he was drafted as a 5th-round pick (160th overall) in the 2008 NFL Draft. In his three years with the Broncos he actually did start games with them. However, he did not impress and struggled a lot in Tampa. In his rookie season where he had in the games, he played completed 50.4% of his passes, 685 passing yards, 4 touchdowns, and 8 interceptions. Not a great rookie season and he lost the role to start once the next season once Josh Freeman got drafted by the Buccaneers in the 1st round of the 2009 NFL Draft. He would mainly rely on backup duty, excluding one start in his final season in Tampa Bay.

Once he left the Tampa Bay Buccaneers Johnson would join his second team by signing a 2 year deal with the San Francisco 49ers. This is a smart idea as John Harbaugh was the head coach and Harbaugh coached Johnson when they were a part of the University of San Diego. Unfortunately, he would be one of the names listed on final cut day yet again making him a free agent.

It was at this point that Johnson decided to take his talent to a different league in order to get better and impress NFL teams to give him another chance. He signed with the Sacramento Lions who were a team in the United Football League (UFL), which would be his 3rd team. Unfortunately due to financial difficulties, the league would cease operations and he would only play 4 weeks with Sacramento. Which was tough for many players and fans of the UFL.

So once the UFL ceased operations the Cleveland Browns came calling and signed him to a contract. As this is his 4th team he was brought in mainly due to how injury-riddled the Browns were at QB with Brandon Weeden and Colt McCoy getting injured. So Johnson relied on backup duty when Thad Lewis was the starter

Ok, so the next few I am going to group together. Once Johnson left Cleveland he would join the Cincinnati Bengals (His 5th Team) in March 2013 but was let go in May 2014. Johnson would immediately return to the San Francisco 49ers and John Harbaugh by signing a new contract. He would be on and off their team through the 2014 NFL Season. Johnson then signed a contract with the Cincinnati Bengals again in 2015 but was cut in the preseason. Luckily the New York Jets (6th Team) brought him in, but he would only last a few weeks. Next up is the Indianapolis Colts (7th Team) who the next month brought him in, but was on and off the roster. The next day the Buffalo Bills (8th Team) signed Josh Johnson and they kept him for the rest of the 2015 season. For the 2016 season, he signed with the Baltimore Ravens (9th Team) but was cut on final cut day. Luckily the New York Giants (10th Team) needed a dependable backup as their backup was injured and needed a few weeks to get healthy. Johnson would luckily remain on the roster and signed a 2-year deal. Unfortunately in the 2017 season the Giants would part ways during final cut day. One month later the Houston Texans (11th Team) would bring him in to be the backup along with other injuries to Deshaun Watson, Tom Savage, and Taylor Heinicke. Next on the list is the Oakland Raiders (12th Team) who signed him in 2018, but did not last long getting cut around May.

That was a handful right there, but now we get to a different league, The Alliance of American Football (AAF). Remember he was the 1st Overall Pick in the 2019 AAF QB Draft where the San Diego Fleet would draft him, thus making it his 13th team. He unfortunately would never play a snap for the team as he would sign a deal with the Washington Redskins (We will get to them in a second). This is probably for the best as the AAF could have been something, but due to the league being poorly run financially the league ceased operations on April 2nd. As a result, the season was canceled and San Diego went 3-5 in the 1st season and the team never played a game again.

So now we get to his tenure with the Washington Redskins which is his 14th team. Honestly, his time as a Redskin so far is the peak of his NFL career. He was brought in to be the backup QB to Mark Sanchez of all QBs as the rest of the QB were injured. On a side note, how was Sanchez able to play this game when he was suspended for 4 games for violating PED policy? Don’t suspensions have to be served while players are on an active roster? Anyways Johnson while joining the team had played Madden in order to remember and learn his teammates. This again goes to show how much of a hard-working guy Josh Johnson was and what he is willing to do to keep his job. It panned out as Johnson would play in 4 games and even start in 3 of them. He completed 57.1% of his throws, 590 receiving yards, 3 touchdowns, 4 interceptions, 120 rushing yards, and a rushing touchdown. He even got his first career win as a Redskin against the Jacksonville Jaguars 16-13.

Once he left Washington, he got multiple different tryouts with many teams. So, do you think he signed another deal after trying out with many teams? Of course, he did. As he signed with the Detroit Lions in August of 2019 which would be his 15th team. Unfortunately, Josh would later be released in Mid-September and yet again would be a free agent.

Now we take a jump to the XFL as the league returns in 2020. This was something I had a big interest in as I remembered looking back and watching the old 2001 version of the XFL and how much of a trainwreck it was. But luckily it was coming back and with Vince McMahon this time spending his own personal money, I thought it was going to be a lot better than the first stint. Josh Johnson would be drafted by the Los Angeles Wildcats which would be his 16th team. Johnson was pretty good with the Wildcats throwing for 1,076 yards, 11 touchdowns, and 2 interceptions. It looked like this would be a good season for Johnson, but then the Covid-19 Pandemic hit and that pretty much ended the XFL’s inaugural season.

With the XFL done and over with many thinking that this would be the end of Josh Johnson’s career, well that's not the case. He signed a contract with San Francisco and was a part of the practice squad. He was mainly brought in to be an emergency option if there was a Covid outbreak. He was not brought back at the end of the season and was fighting for the backup role when he signed with the New York Jets. He even played a few games once Zach Wilson and Mike White were injured during the Indianapolis Colts. In that game, he threw for 317 passing yards, 3 Touchdowns, and an interception, but it was mainly done during garbage time. Unfortunately due to White getting healthier and acquiring Joe Flacco via trade, this resulted in Johnson going back to the practice squad. He would not be on it the whole season as the Baltimore Ravens. This was during the whole injury bug that plagued this team and they needed a QB when Lamar Jackson had an ankle injury and Tyler Hundley had Covid. He played in week 16 against the Bengals and he threw for 304 yards, 2 touchdowns, and 1 interception. He remained on the Ravens Roster for the rest of the season.

So the question you are now asking is, is he still on an NFL roster for 2022? Well if you look at the photo in this article, the answer is yes. Johnson signed with the Denver Broncos which is his 17th team and is battling for the backup role against Brett Rypien.

In total Josh Johnson has been on 17 different teams in 4 leagues. That is just insane and honestly, if he was put in the Hall of Fame for this reason alone, I would allow it. Some players can barely get on one team, but the fact he got to be a part of 17 different teams is honestly impressive and makes him a generational talent as a backup in my mind. Ok not really, but you know what I mean. The best part is he is still going today and I honestly hope he gets to play for 20 teams before he decides to retire from the NFL. Josh Johnson’s story will no doubt be one of if not the best Journeyman QB stories ever and I will certainly never forget him ever.



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