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Broncos journeyman quarterback Josh Johnson has been signed, released and re-signed in his NFL career, he’s lost count.
For the record: 27 signings/re-signings to go along with 17 releases/cuts spanning 14 different teams, according to his lengthy transaction page.
The 36-year-old can’t immediately recall all the quarterbacks he’s backed up, competed against or beaten since being selected in the fifth round by Tampa Bay in 2008. Winners of Super Bowl titles (three, by his count) crossed paths.
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“If I’m leaving anybody out, I’m sorry,” Johnson said with a laugh after a recent practice, where he continued to make a strong case for backing up Russell Wilson. “To be able to throw the ball, to be able to put on that jersey, it’s a blessing. I’m enjoying every minute of every moment.”
His arm and his experience have opened many doors. He signed a total of seven times with San Francisco (including the practice squad), three times with the New York Jets, and twice with Cincinnati, Indianapolis, Houston, the New York Giants and Baltimore. He has signed contracts with the Bucks, Cleveland, Buffalo, Raiders, Washington, Detroit and now Denver, all signed in March.
A lot of teammates — and playbooks — in a career he’s played in 37 games and started nine times. For his career, he has 13 TD passes, 16 interceptions and 2,270 passing yards.
He’s enjoying the ride — a whirlwind that it has been (he’s only had tenure with the teams for a handful of days).
“I’m not in the business of proving people wrong anymore,” said Johnson, who was drafted out of the University of San Diego, an FCS program.
Super-Bowl-winning signal callers he’s worked alongside include Eli Manning with the Giants, Joe Flacco when he was teammates with the Jets last season and Wilson these days.
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He received some advice a while back that has proven to be extremely applicable.
“Control what you can control and understand that no matter who you are, the nature of this business is looking to change you unless you let it,” says Brett Rypien with No. 2, said Johnson, who is running for the seat. The Broncos open the preseason Saturday at home against Dallas. “I’m grateful for the journey.”
In his top statistical season with Tampa Bay in 2009, he played in six games (four starts) and threw for 685 yards with his first career TD pass – an 8-yard strike to Antonio Bryant.
Last December, he was on the practice squad with the Jets when he was signed to the active roster by Baltimore. The Ravens need another QB with Lamar Jackson recovering from an ankle injury. Just 11 days later, Johnson himself started after Tyler Huntley went on the COVID-19 list. Johnson threw for 304 yards and two TDs in a 41-21 win at Cincinnati.
His experience played a role in bringing in first-year Broncos coach Nathaniel Hackett.
“I think he’s as old as me,” said Hackett, 42, “he’s seen a lot so he can go to a game and play at any time.”
Johnson is enjoying his time with Wilson, who the Broncos traded during the offseason in hopes of ending a six-year playoff drought.
“He sets the pace and we all follow,” Johnson said of Wilson, who led Seattle to a Super Bowl victory over the Broncos after the 2013 season. “It’s a great strength every day.”
Johnson’s football outings also included suiting up for the XFL’s LA Wildcats, where he led the league in passer rating (106.3).
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To navigate through all of football’s uncertainty, Johnson has kept his base of operations in his hometown of Oakland, California. They have three children.
“My trials and tribulations are not my family’s,” said Johnson, whose cousin, longtime NFL running back Marshawn Lynch, started the foundation, which in addition to helping start a gaming league focused on empowering youth. “They have to bear with me because I go through ups and downs, but I try to provide them with as much stability as I can.”
Another number: 40. That’s how old Johnson wants to be when he walks off the field (if not longer).
“Because playing quarterback,” Johnson said, “is very high on my list of things I like to do.”