Chad Johnson is back in professional football, but this time it will be in the Canadian Football League. The flamboyant former NFL star signed with the Montreal Alouettes after attending the club’s mini-camp in Florida this week. The team announced the acquisition on social media platform Twitter today, saying “It’s official: @ochocinco puts pen to paper. He reportedly signed a standard two-year deal with no incentives.
In a statement to the media, Montreal general manager Jim Popp said he impressed the past three days and communicated well with other players and, most importantly, held up physically.
Johnson last played for the Miami Dolphins and was released in August of 2012 amid a firestorm of controversy after he was arrested and charged with domestic violence for allegedly head-butting his wife at the time, Evelyn Lozada. He served one week of a 30-day sentence.
The colorful, six-time pro bowl receiver, who went by the name Ochocinco for the latter part of his NFL career, has had no suitors since being cut by the Dolphins. His production fell off the map during his last couple seasons in the league and many believed that at 34, his prime had long since come and gone. In 2011, the New England Patriots acquired Johnson in a trade with the Cincinnati Bengals, with whom he had spent his entire ten years in the league. It would go down as his least productive season by far and after leading the AFC in receiving yards in 2003 and 2005, and the entire NFL in 2006, his time with New England was a complete bust. He caught 15 passes for 276 yards and 1 touchdown, ensuring that his three-year, $6.35 million contract would end after just one season.
Johnson was drafted by Cincinnati in the second round of the 2001 NFL draft after one year at Santa Monica College and one year at Oregon State under head coach Dennis Erickson. Along with future Bengals wideout T.J. Houshmandzadeh, Johnson led the Beavers to an 11-1 record in the 2000 season and caught 37 balls for 806 yards and 8 touchdowns. His 21.8 yards per reception ranked third in all of college football that season and second in the PAC-10.
In his rookie year with the Bengals, Johnson saw limited playing time, tallying just 28 receptions for 329 yards and one touchdown. He would finally break out in 2003, however, setting a franchise record with 1,355 receiving yards. His 2004 season would serve as validation that he had arrived. He totaled 95 receptions for 1,274 yards and 9 touchdowns. By 2005, Johnson had become a mainstay at the top of the NFL’s pass catching list and would grab 97 balls for 1,432 yards and 9 touchdowns that season. He would have two more productive seasons—2006 and 2007—before his performance would start to dip. In 2006, he had 87 receptions and 2007 would be the last of his four seasons with 90 or more receptions. Johnson also set the franchise career receiving yards record that season. His age and whether or not he can play at an elite level with Montreal are likely to take a back seat to the legions of fans he is sure to attract.
Commentary by Rick Sarlat