Just think, less than five years ago, Chad Johnson caught 72 passes for 1,047 yards with nine touchdowns and was a member of the AFC Pro Bowl team.
Three years before that, he and Marvin Harrison were first-team All Pros.
Now, the exuberant 35-year-old receiver, who isn't afraid to proclaim he's always open, has spent a full year away from football.
Time really flies in the NFL, doesn't it?
Also, he's fresh out of jail after serving seven days of his 30-day sentence that stemmed from a joyful butt slap to his lawyer who originally got Johnson no jail time for 2012 domestic-violence charges.
As a free man, and with training camp approaching, is Johnson's NFL career over?
Time to examine.
Johnson's Current Status From An On-Field Perspective
The 1,047 receiving yards Johnson totaled in 2009 was barely outdone by the 1,107 combined receiving yards he totaled in 2010 and 2011 with the Cincinnati Bengals and New England Patriots.
His confusion in Tom Brady's offense was well-documented and it led to only three starts, 15 receptions and a pair of touchdowns two years ago.
If that disappointing effort didn't leave a sour enough taste in the mouths of NFL general managers and coaches, Johnson's failure in Miami with the Dolphins certainly doesn't bode well for his future as a professional.
On a team with Brian Hartline, Legedu Naanee, Davone Bess, Clyde Gates and Rishard Matthews—among other relatively unestablished wideouts—Johnson wasn't good enough in training camp or the preseason to make the team.
Being released prior to the 2012 regular season by a receiver-needy club was quite revealing in all the wrong ways.
Although his domestic-violence arrest was the final straw in Miami, his behavior and on-field mishaps definitely did not have him in a great standing with head coach Joe Philbin.
Though Johnson's stayed in relatively good shape throughout his career, at 35 years of age, it's likely that his physical capabilities are not what they once were.
Johnson's Current Status From An Off-Field Perspective
There's no doubting Johnson's attention-grabbing personality. He just surpassed the four-million follower mark on Twitter, is about as affable and comical with the media as humanly possible and rose to fame when his on-field production was supplemented by flamboyant touchdown celebrations and self-promoting antics.
Every NFL team understands that with Johnson comes a miniature media circus, something that can lead to unwanted distraction.
From that, Johnson's last two NFL stops are interesting and, actually, rather damning for the former Pro Bowl wideout.
After flaming out with the Bengals, he resurfaced with the Patriots, an organization that's known for insulating itself against the media.
Johnson was asked to soft-pedal his famous bravado, and as a result, he was as quiet as he'd ever been in his entire career.
Following that ultimately regrettable stint in New England, Johnson experienced a short-lived stay with the Dolphins, a team decidedly desperate for media coverage.
So, after underwhelming campaigns in consecutive years on polar ends of what an NFL franchise wants from the media, it's easy to argue that Johnson has exhausted all of his options as a professional.
If he can't flourish as a hushed player on one of the league's finest organizations and was cut from an organization actively seeking media attention, where can Johnson realistically fit in?
A Similar Comeback Attempt
Though five years older, Terrell Owens, a similarly exposure-craving wideout, is having trouble finding NFL employment in 2013.
Like Johnson, he was signed in the summer of 2012 by a team in need of depth at wide receiver—the Seattle Seahawks—and despite instant public interest and excitement, a few exhibition game drops led to his release before he was able to sniff regular-season air.
Right now, it doesn't appear Owens will ever hold another NFL job, and Johnson probably won't either.
Sure, Johnson would be a cheap option at receiver at this stage of his career, but with today's media coverage of the NFL essentially ubiquitous, it seems like most teams are moving away from signing players who'll create a major publicity splash, especially if that player isn't an established star.
Though Johnson's career resume is impressive, his ultra-productive playing days are behind him.
Deteriorating on-field skills, humorous, over-the-top personality—which generates intensified media attention deemed bothersome by most teams—and recent legal troubles mean that, in all likelihood, we've already seen the last of Chad Johnson in the NFL.
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