Receiver Dwayne Jarrett was someone the Titans had an opportunity to draft this April, but the Carolina Panthers selected him instead. Shortly thereafter, the Panthers released veteran receiver Keyshawn Johnson, who is scheduled to visit the Titans this afternoon.
The free agent eleven-year veteran could be a big help to the Titans, who are very inexperienced at receiver.
“I know Jeff, but I don’t know the organization, and I don’t know the makeup of the team and the coaching staff,” Johnson told the Associated Press. “I know a little bit about Norm Chow. I know Norm from college. At the same time, I want to make sure everything’s the right fit.
“I was in a situation last year I thought was the right situation, and wind up a year later going in another direction. I want to make sure it’s something everybody is committed to for the next couple of years. They’re committed to me, and I’m committed to them, whoever it is I go play for.”
Johnson does carry some baggage with him. The number one overall pick in the 1996 draft, he soon had a reputation as a brash, selfish, outspoken player who was known as Me-Shawn, and wrote a book, Just Give Me the Damn Ball, in which he criticized teammates.
His reputation was further tarnished when the Tampa Bay Buccaneers deactivated him from the team for the final six games of the 2003 season.
He’s got his good points too, something Titans center Kevin Mawae talked about in a TV interview I saw last night. Mawae praised Keyshawn for being a hard worker who played the game the right way and said he could be an asset to the team. The two played for two years together with the Jets.
There are other interesting connections here. Johnson and Jeff Fisher know each other from Fisher’s days as a player at USC. It’s my understanding that Fisher and several teammates shared an apartment in Keyshawn’s neighborhood and Johnson, a ball boy with the Trojans, soon began hanging out there.
Perhaps the most interesting connection, and perhaps the most important, is the Keyshawn – Steve Smith – Fred Graves triangle.
Smith, a Pro Bowl receiver, and Johnson were teammates with the Carolina Panthers last year.
Smith played for Graves, now the Titans’ receivers coach, in college.
Smith went out of his way to look up Fisher at the Indianapolis scouting combine earlier this year, to recommend Graves for the then-vacant position on Fisher’s coaching staff.
I’d guess Smith has already spoken with Keyshawn about Graves, telling him he’s a good coach to play for. He’s probably also given his opinion about Keyshawn to Graves.
The Titans are apparently proceeding under the premise that Keyshawn’s positives outweigh the negatives. If not, they obviously wouldn’t have invited him for a visit.
If everything else works out and both sides think it would be a good fit, the only thing remaining will be to reach agreement on a contract. Johnson has said he won’t play for a minimum contract or for a one-and-done deal. If the Titans offer him a reasonable salary for several years, I believe there’s a good chance he’ll accept it.
It seems Fisher and Mike Reinfeldt might still have a few reservations about Keyshawn, but if those are resolved to their satisfaction, I’d like to see Keyshawn wearing the two-tone blue this year.
Johnson has amassed career totals of 814 receptions for 10,571 yards and 64 touchdowns. He has won a Super Bowl Ring (Tampa Bay, 2002) and has been selected three times for the Pro Bowl.
Update: 18 May 07, 1915 CT
Keyshawn left Nashville this evening to return to his home in Los Angeles. He breakfasted with Jeff Fisher this morning, then spent the day meeting with the Titans coaching staff and watching film with them. He didn’t have the opportunity to meet with players, since this was a day off for them. In a TV interview this afternoon, he said he enjoyed the visit but is in no hurry to make any decisions.