Johnson, 33, has two years and $21.5 million left on his contract. He has spent his entire 12-year career with Houston, racking up 1,012 catches for 13,597 yards and 64 touchdowns.
Assuming he is released, Johnson is expected to try to latch on with a Super Bowl contender. He's appeared in four playoff games without reaching a Super Bowl.
"I just laughed," Johnson told the paper. "They gave me my role, and I just laughed at them. How do you tell a guy who is used to catching 80 balls a year that he was going to catch 40?"
Johnson added he was "floored" about the comment that he probably wasn't a full-time starter. "I don't feel like there is a guy on that team that can outplay me or outwork me," Johnson said. "I mean, who am I going to play behind?
"So I was real honest with him: 'If that's your role for me, you're going to be dealing with a miserable football player.'"
The relationship between Johnson and the team has deteriorated to the point that Houston is expected to cut Johnson if it can't trade him. Johnson, 33, is the franchise's most accomplished player, with 1,012 career catches for 13,597 yards and 64 touchdowns.
He's scheduled to make $10.5 million and count $16.1 million against the cap this season.
The Texans told Johnson that he'd have a reduced role this upcoming season opposite of DeAndre Hopkins. Therefore, Johnson wanted out of his deal. If a trade cannot be made with a suitor, Johnson will be released.
Johnson was the third overall pick in the 2003 NFL draft and is the greatest player in the history of the Texans. He's recorded 1,012 catches, 13,597 yards and 64 touchdowns in his career.
A trade could be difficult, however, based on Johnson's upcoming $16.1 million cap figure and $10.5 million base salary for the 2015 season.
According to NFL.com's Ian Rapoport, the Texans could cut Johnson if he's unwilling to take a pay cut. Johnson is due a $10.5 million base salary and is carrying a cap figure of over $16.1 million. Cutting Johnson would save the Texans $8.825 million in cap space.
Johnson played in 15 games a year ago and caught 85 passes for 936 yards and three touchdowns. A 12-year veteran, Johnson was taken with the third overall pick by Houston in the 2003 draft.
"We don't want him to play anywhere else. He's a Houston Texan," O'Brien said, per the team's official website.
Johnson, 33, appeared in 15 games in 2014, but had his arguably his worst statistical season. He finished with 85 catches for 936 yards and three touchdowns. He is due to make $10.5 million in 2015, and $11 million in 2016 before becoming a free agent in 2017.
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