Texans sign free-agent receiver Johnson

Often-injured and much-traveled wide receiver Bethel Johnson, at one time considered one of the fastest players in the league, signed a free-agent contract with the Houston Texans on Monday, team officials announced.

Bethel Johnson


Johnson has been either traded or released by three teams in the past 13 months, and so his addition is a gamble by the Texans, who continue to seek help at wide receiver. But even before injuries cost him some of his once-blistering speed, Johnson never caught more than 16 passes in a season, so it is doubtful he will fill the Texans' search for a complementary wideout to star receiver Andre Johnson.

In fact, Johnson's most notable contribution in his four seasons in the league has been as a kickoff returner, where he has averaged 24.6 yards and scored twice on 147 runbacks. As a rookie, he led the AFC with a 28.2-yard kickoff return average.

Houston already has a Pro Bowl kickoff returner in Jerome Mathis, but the two-year veteran has struggled to stay healthy. To provide themselves some insurance in the return game, the Texans chose Jacoby Jones in the third round of this year's draft.

The training camp with the Texans could represent a final shot for Johnson, 28, to fulfill his physical potential in the league.

A second-round pick of New England in 2003, the former Texas A&M star played three years for the Patriots before being traded to New Orleans in June 2006 for former first-round defensive tackle Johnathan Sullivan. Both Johnson and Sullivan were released, however, by their respective new teams. Johnson subsequently signed with the Minnesota Vikings and appeared in 11 games last season.

Earlier this spring, Johnson signed a one-year contract with Philadelphia, where he expected to compete for the Eagles' primary return job. But he was released only a few weeks later after he failed a physical exam.

In 50 appearances, including nine starts, Johnson has 39 receptions for 606 yards and four touchdowns. Of his 147 kickoff returns, 11 have been for 40 yards or more, including a pair of runbacks of 90-plus yards. He also has six punt returns for 21 yards.

Details of the contract that Johnson signed were not immediately available, but it is believed to be for one year, and for a minimum base salary of $595,000.

Senior writer Len Pasquarelli covers the NFL for ESPN.com.