While NFL quarterback Josh Johnson may not be a household name, he still holds a rare record in the league. His 15 seasons on separate NFL teams are quite striking. Fifteen is rare for NFL players – 15 teams is on a whole other level. Yet no athlete hopes their first professional contract will be the first of more than a dozen.
It takes a certain type of player to both stay in the league but also end up as a constant trade piece. While it’s a rare career path to trade so often, Johnson isn’t the only one with this kind of ever-changing career.
Other NFL journeyman players have come close to Josh Johnson’s record
The journeyman quarterback, according to the American Football Database, is a career path defined by constantly evolving teams. These players continue to find ways to bring value to teams, but are unable to secure long-term contracts. They tend to sign one-year contracts and often end up being transferred.
Johnson is the undisputed king of having a long and lucrative career as this type of player. The nearest neighbor, Professional Football Reference reports, is JT O’Sullivan. He too has played for 15 separate teams during his professional career. The former New Orleans Saints player spent many of his years playing with NFL Europe and the CFL.
Josh McCown also took advantage of his journeyman status. NBC Sports reports that he has played for 10 separate NFL teams since joining the league in 2002. Impressively, he found himself in a big time relatively recently. He appeared in the 2020 NFC Wild Card game, playing for the Eagles. He concluded his career after spending 2021 on the Houston Texans’ active roster.
Josh Johnson is the king of maintaining the value of his craft as a journeyman
Johnson’s career started fairly steady, Diario AS reports. His stint with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers lasted from 2008 to 2011. From there, he became a year-to-year commercial fixture, beginning with a single season with the San Francisco 49ers. This team certainly saw something in him, as they brought Johnson back on board in 2014 and again in 2020.
Between his stints in the NFL, years of rest were spent in other leagues. He worked with the Sacramento Mountain Lions for a short time in 2012. Next, Johnson played for the AAF’s San Diego Fleet in 2014.
He even took a hiatus to give the revived XFL a chance in 2020. The 49ers were clearly monitoring Johnson’s time with the LA Wildcats, as they offered him a coaching spot when that league went bankrupt. Today, he’s attached to the Denver Broncos, who are more willing to use him as a backup during the regular season.
Will the Denver Broncos be Johnson’s final landing spot?
When the NFL’s top QB mate signed with the Broncos earlier this year, it was with the promise that he would get a real playing chance. For a player who’s been in the league since 2008, that’s quite a vote of confidence.
As he struggled with the 49ers practice squad, his career seemed almost over. Now he leads preseason wins for the Broncos. If he retains his value as a true substitute, his career could stretch for another season or two – possibly longer, depending on his condition.
But there are simply no guarantees when you are at Johnson’s particular level as a player. Many NFL players do well, then quickly decline after just a few years. A few shine brightly before leaving the league after injuries.
Among superstars, long runs like Tom Brady’s are extremely rare. That Johnson is still providing value to NFL teams in 2022 is a special thing to see.
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