In a surprise move intended to add experience at quarterback behind Byron Leftwich, the Jaguars have signed veteran Doug Johnson.
Johnson, 26, was an unrestricted free agent who spent his first four seasons in the league with the Atlanta Falcons. The former University of Florida passer was viewed as a quarterback on the rise two years ago, but his stock fell last season when he failed to live up to expectations during Michael Vick's absence.
"He's a guy we've studied the last few years. We kind of felt two years ago he was on the verge of having a breakout year. He had a big game against the Giants and a big preseason. Last year, when Vick went down, the whole team struggled," Jaguars personnel boss James Harris said of Johnson, who was signed by the Falcons as an undrafted free agent in 2000.
As Vick's replacement last season, Johnson completed 136 passes in 243 attempts, for 1,655 yards, eight touchdowns and 12 interceptions. That left him with a 67.5 passer rating.
"He's 26, he has a good arm and has some experience, and we think there's some upside there," Harris added of Johnson.
In 2002, Johnson relieved Vick in the third quarter vs. Tampa Bay and Johnson completed 13 of 25 passes for 150 yards, but also three interceptions. A week later, as Vick recuperated from a sore shoulder, Johnson led the Falcons to an upset win over the Giants by completing 19 of 25 passes for 257 yards and one touchdown, good for a 121.6 passer rating. He also scored on a 15-yard run.
As a rookie in 2000, Johnson made two starts, completing 36 of 67 passes for 406 yards, two touchdowns, three interceptions and a 63.4 passer rating.
Harris described having signed Johnson as "getting an opportunity to get a good, young quarterback, and quarterbacks are real valuable."
David Garrard is number two on the Jaguars' quarterback depth chart. Johnson would compete with Garrard for that backup spot. The fourth quarterback is Quinn Gray, who helped lead Frankfurt to the NFL Europe League title in 2003. Gray spent nearly all of last season on the Jaguars' practice squad.
"I'm excited to be back home," Johnson told jaguars.com today. "I think this team is as talented as anybody. It's not going to be a difficult thing to get over that hump. I'm going to do whatever I can to be the best backup I can be."
Atlanta personnel exec Ron Hill, who was formerly the Jaguars' director of pro personnel, gave the signing thumbs up. "It's a real good signing. He's fulfilled a role here and he'll bring some stability for the Jags in that role," Hill said. "He has the capability to do some real positive things down there. He's a pro."
Johnson became expendable in Atlanta when the new coaching staff began looking for personnel more suitable to the offense it will install. The Falcons drafted Virginia quarterback Matt Schaub in the third round this past weekend.
"I'm now playing in an offense that fits. It's shotgun-based, stay in the pocket, throw it mediocre to long," Johnson said in describing the Jaguars' version of the West Coast offense.
"Sometimes change is good," he added.