Saying goodbye to Rashad

Posted by Darren Urban on March 25, 2016 – 6:07 pm

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.


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41 Responses to “Saying goodbye to Rashad”

  1. By Eli M on Mar 25, 2016 | Reply

    I wish the guy well but I am glad to see him go.. I have never liked his attitude. After years of watching him off the field I did not care for his sarcastic arrogance and “when do I get minez” type attitude. Good riddance I say. Moving forward..

  2. By Darren Urban on Mar 25, 2016 | Reply

    Eli M —

    RE: arrogance

    Wait … what?

    Are we talking about the same guy?

  3. By Mark on Mar 25, 2016 | Reply

    This is a guy who will be sorely missed. We all know it’s a business, and it has to go the way it goes, but Rashad has been an asset to the Cardinals and an easy guy to root for, and I know I’m not the only Cardinals fan who is sorry to see him go. On the bright side, he’s had a good pro career already and still has gas left in the tank, and when his playing career is over he’ll be a coach somewhere. Things could be a lot worse. Still, it’s hard to see him go. Good luck to you, Rashad. It’s been a pleasure having you on our team.

  4. By Richard on Mar 25, 2016 | Reply

    Whoever says Rashad Johnson was arrogant truly doesn’t know the man or has been fed extremely incorrect information. Rashad is a confident but humble professional that is easy to talk to. It’s dissapointing to hear people tall negatively about a man’s character when they don’t even have a clue. I work out at the same facility – Zone Athletic Performance in Scottsdale- that Rashad worked out in the off season for the past 4 years and he was nothing but respectful to all he came across. I’m sad to see a player of his caliber leave the Cardinals but it is a business and I wish him well. Good luck to you in Tennessee Rashad.

  5. By doug on Mar 25, 2016 | Reply

    not the fastest db or the hardest hitter, but always seemed to be in the right place at the right time. and tough, giving up part of a finger without missing a game if memory serves.

  6. By Will Stone on Mar 26, 2016 | Reply

    26 may not be the most physically gifted S in the league, but he’s all heart, and smart to boot. Unquestionably the QB of the defense, and an all-around quality guy. He may not be the A-Dub RoH type, but as a hardcore Cards fan, he’s one I’ll remember fondly. Go with God, 26, and show the AFCSouth what’s up.
    #beredseered #birdgangforlife

  7. By MartinK on Mar 26, 2016 | Reply

    Even though we knew it was coming there is nothing logical about letting Rashad go saying that’s just the way the business works. The Titans certainly disagree, and the same logic seemed not to matter when Chris Johnson was brought back. If I want to retain a veteran leader regardless of if he sits on the bench it should be Rashad Johnson.

    My thought is that Rashad’s role was not appreciated by the defensive leadership. Why else would we now abandon our philosophy that the “biggest muscles in the human body are the brain and the heart”? Letting someone like Rashad go is a move that will negatively affect the locker room.

    There are a few other problems that seem to lack a bigger plan. For example, moving our strong safety to linebacker while failing to replace ILB, who have the bodies for the job, makes no sense. To claim that nose tackle is a poor investment (Ted Williams) because the position only serves rushing downs is failing to acknowledge that stopping the run sets up third and long where edge rushers shine.

    How long will Tyrann Mathieu last if his routine job becomes chasing down tight ends one on one close to the line of scrimmage and everyone else is on the inside helping out? Do we have to be surprised if Bethel or Powers are beat to the outside when they have to account for the missing safety? This all sounds like a chain reaction caused by a glaring weakness in ILB/NT that is not being addressed. But hey, if Deone gets hurt, why don’t we move Tyrann Mathieu up to ILB and see how long he lasts? He’s got a few ligaments left – No risk it no biscuit!

    Oh, and while I am at it: Why don’t we send our punter up to Seattle for OTAs so he can practice kicking to Tyler Lockett? I think he missed one in the last game. When we are getting beat badly in the first half, and everyone is running scared, why are we throwing bombs? Can’t we just run the ball for a little until we all settle down? Works in high school. (Forgot – No risk it no biscuit!)

  8. By Grandpa black on Mar 26, 2016 | Reply

    After the way our safetys played in the NFC championship he’s gone! Too bad for Rashad tho but it’s time to get younger. The addition of Smith was an early sign of Rashad leaving. I remember when he lost a part of his finger that was crazy.

  9. By Grandpa black on Mar 26, 2016 | Reply

    *oops I meant the addition to BRANCH.

  10. By Richard on Mar 26, 2016 | Reply

    I had the privilege of sitting next to him on a 3 hour flight in January (during wild card weekend). Rashad was incredibly friendly, intelligent, and genuine. We conversed for about half the flight, and it consisted of very little football. A lot about leadership, his faith as a Christian, his life story, his fiancé who was there with him, his relationship with the other guys in the secondary, his foundation (Walk-ons to Champions), and life after football.

    He told me about coaching at the high school level as well, and it’s no doubt that he will excel in that role if that’s the direction he goes. I honestly would not be surprised if he ends up as a pastor or in some form of ministry. He has great perspective and like you said Darren, can see the bigger picture in all sitatuons.

    Best of luck in TEN and in your new marriage, Rashad! You were all class here, and fun to cheer for!

  11. By Marlin on Mar 26, 2016 | Reply

    Great Guy. Terrific player. He will be missed.

  12. By NJAzCardsFan on Mar 26, 2016 | Reply

    RJ was one player I hoped they would have brought back. Who is going to be the “next man up” to fill his shoes…??? Leadership wise??? On field captain DB backfield???

    Darren- Any word if Powers will return??? Seems like he hasn’t had much interest from other teams, so far???

  13. By Darren Urban on Mar 26, 2016 | Reply

    NJAz –

    RE: Powers

    No word right now.

  14. By shannon robinson on Mar 26, 2016 | Reply

    Rashad played like Larry Foote and seemed to have the same level of respect from other players. To me he was a freckle faced kid who lived for joy whether things were going good or bad. Wolfley asked for Rashad’s return as the most important player signing the Cards could make this offseason. Length and speed won out which we all saw a few times this season. Steve Keim is brutal on occasion. Don’t you love it when that happens. There’s going to be times this next year we’ll miss what Rashad brought every game. Passion and intelligence were his longsuits. Now I’ll have a reason to watch the Titans. Good luck and a tip of the Cardinals’ Wing to you, Rashad.

  15. By 'ZonaFan89 on Mar 26, 2016 | Reply

    It’s tough to see Cardinal lifers leave the franchise… Maybe he’ll come back as a coach someday. Guys like him, A-dub, Fitz – wish those guys never had to leave!

    I have a feeling this may very well be Larry’s last season with the Cards (possibly in the NFL). Man, I want us to get a ring for that guy so bad… Super Bowl or bust in 2016!!

  16. By Cody Zarr on Mar 26, 2016 | Reply

    Eli M,

    I’m fairly certain you’re watching a different team with a different 26. Rashad has always been a class act. I’ve never seen him make a dirty play/hit nor do I recall hearing anything negative come out of his mouth since he came to the team.

    He was the brains of the secondary and his presence will be sorely missed.

  17. By Steve on Mar 26, 2016 | Reply

    Rashad is a good example of being a guy who wasn’t the most athletically gifted player out there on the field but has stayed in the league because he is smart and mentally tough. Best of luck to you #26.

  18. By clssylssy on Mar 26, 2016 | Reply

    Nice story Darren. I really hate losing Rashard as he was the brains of our secondary, a workhorse player who was content to just get the job done while letting others get the glory. He contributed more than some others, leading in interceptions and was a huge asset to our defense as our on field DC and signal caller; when he missed a few games our defense struggled.
    I worry about our defense and the lack of veteran leadership w Keim putting flash ahead of substance.
    Like Hightower,DRC, Boldin, and others, RJ is a guy who I will continue to root for with our loss being someone else’s gain.
    RIP…No Fly Zone

  19. By DTL on Mar 26, 2016 | Reply

    Fare thee well, Rashad. Better with 9 fingers than most with 10. Fine gentleman too. Thanks for all you did.

  20. By Scott H on Mar 26, 2016 | Reply

    First, wow – I never saw a post get 49 thumbs downs before! Even MY posts don’t get that many. Damn, man……but that post had it coming. If he was talking about THIS Rashad Johnson…then I just don’t get where that comes from.

    Second, I either didn’t know or I completely forgot that Johnson was drafted by the Cards in 2009.

    I wonder to what extent his leadership / coach on the field qualities will be missed. Hard to replace that. But in terms of his individual ability on the field….hate to sound non-chalant, but perhaps an up-grade wouldn’t be the worst thing here. As others have stated, I think some guys kinda got exposed after we lost Matthieu. Then again, the lack of a pass rush wasn’t helping anyone in the secondary during those last 3 games….

    Nevertheless, I’m hoping the changes in our secondary this off-season will result in an up-grade, overall.

    Speaking of which, what ever happened with Hall???

  21. By Lisa from Sulligent on Mar 26, 2016 | Reply

    There is one thing Rashad is not. He is not arrogant. He is one of the nicest young men that you will ever meet.

  22. By CreditCard on Mar 27, 2016 | Reply

    Rashad Johnson was one of my more favorite players. Not the most athletic players, but very intellectual, and flat out hard working. Comes from a good hard working family, and appears Rashad Johnson respects the game and has a good sense of well grounded values.

    Wish him well — hopefully he will return to the Cards in the capacity of a position coach. I think he would be a great coach — at any level.

  23. By sportsblogger16 on Mar 27, 2016 | Reply

    It is a tough business but that is why people love Steve Keim. He makes the hard choices and players love him because it makes the team better and puts them in a position to contend each and every year.

  24. By barry on Mar 28, 2016 | Reply

    A Classy guy that will be missed on and off the field…not sure about the comment from earlier post Eli. You must not watch Cardinal football. Rashad has been a piece that has held this team together for a long time. Best of luck!
    wish you could have retired a Card.

  25. By Eric G on Mar 28, 2016 | Reply

    Off topic, but now with the Browns signing RGII, Wentz may slide some in the draft. I’m hoping I hear “The Baltimore Ravens have traded the sixth pick to the Arizona Cardinals” come draft day. i could see us giving up #1 pick this year and #2 pick next year for Wentz. That’s what it would take, at least, but I wouldn’t do much more than that.

    As to Rashad, good luck kid.

  26. By Scott H on Mar 28, 2016 | Reply

    Eric –

    Interesting….but after they brought Stanton back, do you think they are really thinking QB this year? Not to mention one that is going to require this year’s 1st round pick and a 2nd rounder next year??? Not that I know, but I would not expect to see them going that way.

    Also, I would not consider it out of the question that they are thinking of getting 3, even 4 more seasons out of Palmer. Why not? Physically, he is still going strong.

    My walnut-sized brain says that with Stanton back, this team is in full-out WIN NOW mode, which would probably put QB-of-the-future on the back burner for now. I definitely do not see them making the kind of trade you described for a QB this year.

  27. By Eric G on Mar 28, 2016 | Reply

    Scott H –

    It’s never too early to draft a QB at this point. I see Palmer playing for two more years, and I’d love to have a top tier young QB waiting in the wings. I love Stanton, he’s a fantastic backup and I think the Cards are lucky to have him as a backup, but he’s a backup. Don’t get me wrong, that deal I propose is a high cost and I don’t know if he’s truly worth it, but if he turns out to be the next Aaron Rodgers or Tom Brady, then it’s a small price to pay.

    It is win now, so I’m hoping beyond hope that the Cards get Spence, but I wouldn’t trade up for him and don’t see him there when Cards draft. We’ll see.

  28. By John The Draft Guy on Mar 28, 2016 | Reply

    Eric G;


    Trading up to get Wentz makes sense on the surface. A talented QB who would benefit sitting behind Palmer a couple years is what every Card fan wants. But lets look at the logistics.

    Going from #29 to #6 is not unheard of. But what would it cost? I think you can look at the Falcons / Browns trade in 2011. The Falcons wanted Julio Jones. Trading up cost the Falcons their 2011 first rounder, the 2012 first rounder, 2011 second rounder, and a third day pick.

    The cards do not have a 2nd rounder. So, lets say the cards want to make this move. Most likely, it would cost the cards the 2016 1st rounder, 2017 1st rounder, 2016 third rounder and 2017 3rd rounder.

    The cards will be in good shape in 2017 in cap space, so losing the draft picks could be compensated by FAs. As for 2016, the cards still have holes at center and CB. The cards could extend a couple contracts and lower the cap number to land these players in FA.

    So, I guess, if the cards feel like this is the guy they would love to have and could afford to give up all those picks, then go for it.

    As for me, I think you have Palmer for the next couple years with Stanton backing him up. You could get away with not taking a QB or taking a flyer on a guy late in the 2016 draft. I just think landing a young CB at a low salary for the next 4 years is smart. You have so much money in PP that a rookie like Makenzie Alexander or Eli Apple could come in and be a steady player without the big bucks a comparable CB would cost in FA.

    With that being said, would I be upset if the cards traded up and landed Wentz? No, I think I would be pretty excited.

  29. By Dr.. G on Mar 28, 2016 | Reply

    EricG… I like Wentz too, but it seems like Paxton Lynch has a similar description approaching the draft, and a little bigger. i always take their evaluations with several grains of salt. Smaller schools don’t always reveal how the QB will perform…eg., Derrick Carr.

    Lynch may still be within reach at #29. Cleveland may take Wentz as the backup. No one wants to improve at that position more than I. We’ll see…nothing will surprise with Keim manning the tiller. I can see him trading Stanton, maybe Barkley…

  30. By Dr.. G on Mar 28, 2016 | Reply

    jtdg…interesting suppositions for a Wentz acquisition. For now, I don’t think Keim would bet that much for him as a draft pick needing some serious grooming. Don’t you see Lynch or Cook as reasonable prospects?

  31. By Big Ken on Mar 28, 2016 | Reply

    Dr. G, agree on Paxton Lynch could be there at 29. But what do the Cardinals think of him? Is the sure safe pick Ryan Kelly at 29? All top secret stuff this time of year.

  32. By John The Draft Guy on Mar 28, 2016 | Reply

    Dr G,

    Lynch is a little like Cam Newton to me. A huge guy who can run like a deer. I could see Denver jumping us to grab him if he makes it past the Rams.

    I have always liked Conner Cook. Thinking he might enter the draft last year, I was banging the table for the cards to draft Cook last year.

    Remember, last year, Palmer was coming off an injury (as was Stanton). But Cook decided to go back to school and Palmer had an MVP season.

    I would not be upset to take either Cook or Lynch. I just think, at this point, Palmer is a MVP guy. The cards resigned Stanton for two years. I am just not sure I pull the trigger on a QB this year.

    I really would be focused on three guys. Eli Apple, Makenzie Alexander, or Ryan Kelly.

    Next year or 2018 is when I take my QB and have him sit behind Palmer or compete with Stanton if Palmer is gone in 2018. I could be wrong, but we are so close, I just don’t want to pick a QB with no number two pick, when we could get a very good CB in my opinion.

  33. By Scott H on Mar 28, 2016 | Reply

    Eric G –

    I hear ya and I can’t argue with your general premise. But that tiny little word – IF – becomes the biggest word in the world here. Is it worth any price to land an Aaron Rodgers or a Tom Brady? Sure, it is. And do you set yourself back YEARS if you think that is what you are getting and you wind up with Ryan Leaf or Rick Mirer? Yeah, you do. Bottom line, I guess every team has to roll the dice at some point.

    For what it’s worth, I think Palmer has AT LEAST 3 good years left in him. Don’t know if the Cardinals are thinking that, but….physically, I think he definitely has that in him.

    And, yes, Stanton is a back-up. Maybe the best back-up in the league at the moment and one helluva insurance policy. But he is ( probably ) not the future. So, he (probably ) does not solve that problem.

    Over the past decade, it has been veteran “re-treads” ( as some would call Warner and Palmer ) that have brought us the success. Who know? Can’t always count on one of those guys being there, but….ya wonder if we could get lucky again!

    Some day, our luck with drafting QB’s has to change…..doesn’t it??

  34. By John The Draft Guy on Mar 29, 2016 | Reply

    Scott H

    “Some day, our luck with drafting QB’s has to change…..doesn’t it??”

    Well, it would help if we actually drafted QBs in the first two rounds. Since 1997, the cards have only drafted Plummer and Leinart in the first two rounds.

    Not saying we should draft one, (see my post above), but it is hard to say we do a bad job at it, when we actually, just don’t do it.

    If history stays the same, I wouldn’t be surprised if we don’t draft a first round QB in the next 3 drafts and in 2018, we see Blaine Gabbert (someone BA likes) and Stanton battling for the starting spot.

    Just saying…

  35. By Scott H on Mar 29, 2016 | Reply

    JTDG –

    RE: We don’t draft QB’s in the first two rounds

    One could argue either side of this. I mean, how many QB busts have been taken in rounds in 1 & 2? A pretty long and distinguished list, to be sure.

    Also, were either Russell Wilson or Tom Brady taken in the first 2 rounds? Shoot, Brady came close to not being drafted at all.

    THIS is the exact point that underscores just what a crap-shoot the draft is when it comes to QB’s, above all other positions. It doesn’t seem to me that where they are taken in the draft has really correlated to any firm trends as to where they end up being 3 years down the road.

    Gotta tell ya, I find myself wondering sometimes who our next veteran QB “savior” might be. And ya know what name scares the heck out of me? Jay Cutler. By the time Palmer is done here, Jay Cutler will be just about at that point where Warner and Palmer were when they came to the Cardinals. And I swear, I want NO PART of Jay Cutler. But age-wise…..he’ll be right there, ya know?

    Other possibilities I would want no part of – Mark Sanchez, Matthew Stafford, Alex Smith….

    Other possibilities that may be pretty intriguing – Big Ben, Joe Flacco, Phillip Rivers….

    Drew Brees?? Will he still be around?

    My gosh, how completely insane would it be if Big Ben came here a few years from now, with a few bullets left in the chamber, and we made it back to the SB to BEAT the Steelers this time???

  36. By Kevin S Mesa on Mar 29, 2016 | Reply

    Re: all the QB talk —

    The crapshoot that you all mention when it comes to choosing QB’s (at least when you’re not picking in the very top of the draft and there’s a Luck sitting there) is exactly why I don’t think I’d pick one now.

    I know everyone likes to say, “Let him sit behind Palmer for two years,” but are we convinced any more that there is a significant benefit to drafting a guy and then having him sit on the bench? Plus, then if the guy turns out to be good, you’ve lost two years of his cheap rookie contract. Part of the reason the Seahawks had such an advantage is, Wilson turned out to be very good, and they played him right away (for a piddly salary) and could spend the money elsewhere.

    First round QB’s drafted last several years:

    2015 — Winston, Mariota — instantly given starting job
    2014 — Bortles, Manziel, Bridgewater — two took over as starters in September of rookie year; we know about Manziel
    2013 — Manuel — Started as the starter, but didn’t pan out.
    2012 — Luck, Griffin, Tannehill, Weeden — all given starting job out of the gate. Weeden’s a bit of an outlier since he was pretty old due to his baseball career before college.
    2011 — Newton, Locker, Gabbert, Ponder — Only Newton started the season as the starter, but Gabbert took over quickly (starting in September), Ponder took over in October after a disastrous few games with McNabb. Locker played less and was considered a backup to Hasselbeck even when he did play.

    With the exception of Locker and Manziel, all of these first-round QB’s either were named their team’s #1 QB from the get-go, or took over the job early in their rookie season. None of them “tutored” under an established QB for a couple seasons. Does that mean the tutoring approach is no longer valid? Not necessarily, but the NFL seems to have moved away from that approach. (And then on the flip side, the Broncos let Osweiler tutor for so long that then they didn’t ever get to play him for a full season.)

  37. By Scott H on Mar 30, 2016 | Reply

    Kevin –

    Good point. Aaron Rodgers got to “sit behind” Brett Favre for a few years before he got to play. But that is a rare instance of a QB that was drafted by a team, got to watch from the bench for a few seasons, then was given the job.

    And honestly, do we actually KNOW for a fact that Rodgers benefitted from that process? For one thing, it became clear later on that Rodgers and Favre did not seem to have the greatest relationship. AND it seems to me that Rodgers had greatness in him, regardless – it’s not like that was instilled in him because he got to be Brett Favre’s back-up for a few years before he played.

    I also do not give a ton of credence to the process of drafting a QB and having him watch and learn from a veteran for a few years to get him ready. Because there really isn’t a lot of evidence to support that that is the way to go.

  38. By Nick on Mar 30, 2016 | Reply

    “Got 9 more”

    One of my favorite football quotes ever, unreal

  39. By Kevin S Mesa on Mar 30, 2016 | Reply

    Scott H —

    Yeah, Rodgers is an example. Brady, I suppose, is another, although there was no evidence he was sitting there being groomed as the future starter — he got forced into action. Steve Young, of course, is the classic example, waiting behind Joe Montana. I’m sure the 49ers loved having that luxury, but is there any question Young could have played sooner for another team?

    When young baseball players have a vet in front of them, they usually get sent back down to the minors so that they keep getting their at-bats. These QB’s that sit behind a guy get to play in preseason games and that’s it. Even in practice, they aren’t getting many reps. I don’t see how that’s good for anyone’s development.

  40. By Rebecca Ellis on Apr 1, 2016 | Reply

    I am so sad to see him go. He is a great player, a great friend and an all around Godly man. Tennessee is lucky to have him now and although he is disappointed in regards to not staying with the Cardinals, he is excited to be closer to his family and make the Titan fans proud. It is my honor to call him and his fiancé friends.

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