HOUSTON — Houston Texans receiver Andre Johnson wants a new contract.
The Pro Bowl wideout skipped the team’s first voluntary practice of the off-season Monday and no one is sure when he’ll join the team.
Johnson has five years left on an eight-year contract worth US$60 million that included $15 million in guarantees.
The Texans restructured his first contract with two years remaining.
General manager Rick Smith said the situation is “very difficult” because Johnson has so much time left on his current contract.
“It is because it’s something that’s not customary, that’s not common,” he said. Still, the GM said he was willing to talk with Johnson.
“I’m not real worried about that because we re-did him with two years left on his original deal and that was three years ago and over the first three years of that deal — even if you ask him — he’s been well compensated,” he said.
Johnson, who is entering his eighth season, has had more than 1,500 yards receiving in each of the last two years for the Texans.
The team’s policy under Smith has been to only negotiate with players who are participating in team activities. Smith pointed to what star middle linebacker DeMeco Ryans did last off-season when he was unhappy with his contract.
“One of the things that was real smart on his part was the fact that he was upset that we had not been able to come to terms with an agreement, but he came back and was a part of the off-season workout and he was with his teammates, he was a leader and he did things the right way,” Smith said.
“He played his contract out and he was rewarded.”
Johnson’s absence is another distraction for a team that has been dealing with Brian Cushing’s upcoming four-game suspension for testing positive for a performance-enhancing drug. The 2010 season could be a pivotal one for the team, which is coming off its first winning record but has never reached the playoffs.
“You’d like to have all your people out here working, especially when we’re trying to go do something we never have done,” Smith said.
“So the ideal situation is to have everybody working together, but as we talked about last week, you’ve got to be able to deal with distractions.”
Smith said he has spoken to the receiver but wouldn’t divulge details about their conversations.
“Obviously we want Andre here,” coach Gary Kubiak said. “I know he and Rick are talking, so we’ll get it worked out. We’re not worried about Andre. He’ll do his job.”