It wasn’t supposed to go this way, and maybe that explains why Juwan Johnson is in this position now.
If things would’ve followed convention, Johnson would have been out of the NFL by now, not standing there in the New Orleans Saints practice facility talking about his professional hopes for the next two seasons.
Three years ago, Johnson was a college wide receiver hoping to get a chance to prove himself in the NFL. The draft came, and Johnson waited to find out where he’d land. And he waited. And he waited.
And he waited until the draft was over, his name not one of the 255 called on draft day, for the Saints to call and offer a path as an undrafted free agent.
That path was often difficult, but the reward was there at the end. After changing positions to tight end and improving in each of his three professional seasons, Johnson recently signed a two-year extension that will pay him $12 million.
“Knowing the journey I went through, being undrafted, you kind of feel like a leftover in a way — no one picks you up,” Johnson said. “The best thing about God is He always intercedes in the right way. Whenever I felt like nothing, He made me feel like something. That was kind of the biggest thing for me.”
Johnson played sparingly as a wide receiver in his rookie season, spending most of the year on the practice squad. New Orleans switched him to tight end shortly before the 2021 season, and he truly took off in 2022.
He set career-highs across the board, hauling in 42 passes for 508 yards and seven touchdowns. But beyond proving himself as a pass-catcher, Johnson showed he could add something even when he was getting targeted as a receiver.
Blocking defensive ends and linebackers at the point of attack was a foreign concept to him when he arrived in New Orleans, but Johnson kept working on it until the Saints could rely on him as a blocker. He led all Saints skill position players in offensive snaps last season, playing in 61.6 % of them.
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