New York Jets Sign Veteran Quarterback Josh Johnson As Backup To Zach Wilson
Josh Johnson never threw a pass in a regular-season game in any of his three separate stints with the San Francisco 49ers. But his last stint with the 49ers is the one that gives the well-traveled backup an excellent chance to earn the second-string job with his latest team, the New York Jets.
Johnson was signed by New York on Wednesday morning. He was cut by the 49ers on June 1 and hasn’t played in the NFL since he was with Washington in 2018. He played for the Los Angeles Wildcats of the XFL in 2020 before the season was canceled by COVID.
Johnson has been on 14 NFL teams, although he has seen regular-season action with only four. In fact, this is his second go-round with the Jets, who signed him for a brief stint to get through the 2015 preseason while Geno Smith was mending from a broken jaw.
Johnson spent time on the 49ers practice squad last season and was on their roster this spring, meaning he is familiar with the Kyle Shanahan offense that is the basis for the Jets’ attack.
“He’s a tremendous pro,” Jets coach Robert Saleh said of Johnson, who practiced for the first time Wednesday during his second stint with the Jets. “He’s got a tremendous amount of energy to him. He knows our system, as far as understanding the whys of our system, the hows of our system, and how to be a pro, just to bring that into the room, as a presence. He’s a fantastic human being.
“He’s someone that we’ve been talking to throughout OTAs,” Saleh said, “and I’m just really glad that we were able to get him in here. He’s a big plus, a big addition to bring into that quarterback room.”
It has become a crowded room, with No. 2 overall pick Zach Wilson, whom Johnson presumably with help mentor, given his knowledge of the system. Behind Wilson are two other untested signalcallers, fifth-year pro Mike White and 2020 fourth-round selection James Morgan.
Johnson, who is 1-7 as a starter with a total of eight touchdown passes and 14 interceptions in 33 career games, becomes the only quarterback on New York’s roster who has thrown a pass in a regular-season game.
Still, Saleh said the Jets want to continue to develop White and Morgan.
“Josh, he’ll be here,” Saleh said. “He’s going to get his work in. We’re not going to stop the development of James Morgan and Mike White. They’re getting their run. They’re going to get their practice reps. They’re going to get into preseason games and all that stuff, not to say Josh won’t, but obviously he’s got to spend the next couple of weeks catching back up and learning the nuances of this (offense) as opposed to Kyle’s. It shouldn’t take him that long.”
Still, it remains to be seen if the Jets will carry four quarterbacks once they have to trim their roster to 53, or if they will relegate either White or Morgan to the practice squad.
The Jets also may have felt that Wilson needed a more experienced mentor in the absence of passing game coordinator Greg Knapp, who tragically died five days after his bike was struck by a car last month. Johnson, 35, is four years older than quarterbacks coach Rob Calabrese, who had been the de facto assistant to the 58-year-old Knapp during the spring.
Johnson was scheduled to make $1.075 million with the 49ers, per overthecap.com, so it is safe to assume he will get a contract of similar value from New York, which had an estimated $16.5 million worth of cap space prior to Johnson’s signing.