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If the Colts viewed Antonio Johnson as a defensive tackle who could help cure their problems up front, they would have signed him a long time ago.
Johnson was a Titans fifth-round draft pick out of Mississippi State in 2005, but he blew out his knee in training camp and missed his rookie year. Heading into his second season, many of us presumed he would develop into a run stuffer who would amount to an upgrade over Randy Starks, who showed little interest after his rookie year and moved to Miami as a free agent.
But Tennessee judged Johnson too raw, cut him and signed him to the practice squad, viewing him as a guy they might still be able to develop.
He lost out on the 53-man roster to Kevin Vickerson, a Miami seventh-rounder in 2005 who missed his first year with a knee injury, was inactive for every game in 2006 and then spent four games on the 2007 Titans practice squad and four more on the 53-man roster. He's only played in three games this season.
At 6-foot-3 and 310 pounds, Johnson will be just the second Colts defensive lineman over 300 pounds. The other, Daniel Muir, has played in only two games this season.
I suspect if he makes much of an impact for the Colts, it will be in 2009.
Tony Dungy is sure to speak today about Johnson, who goes by "Mookie." I will try to check back and add what he says.
UPDATE 4:09: Dungy's comments from his news conference today:
On the roster move: "A guy named Antonio Johnson who we liked coming out of school and had some pretty good grades on. We're at a point where we're looking for defensive interior linemen, and he was a guy that we liked that was available. We had a chance to sign him, and we'll see how he does."
On how easy the transition will be for Johnson: "He should be able to acclimate pretty quickly. Matter of fact, he was on Tennessee's practice squad so he got to play this defense for a whole week before he got here."
The Titans replaced Johnson on the practice squad with Amon Gordon, who was with Baltimore in training camp. He was originally drafted out of Stanford by the Cleveland Browns with a fifth-round pick in 2004. Drafted in 2004 and still practice squad eligible! That's tough to do.