EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – The Memorial Day Weekend began Friday with the Giants letting go a cornerback but adding a veteran quarterback.
“This is a very disappointing development for our ball club. He was a fine young player for the Giants and I personally really hate to see him go.” - GM Ernie Accorsi on the team's decision to terminate the contract of CB Will Peterson The team terminated the contract of cornerback William Peterson, whose status with the Giants was the subject of much speculation in the last several months. At the same time, the Giants signed quarterback Rob Johnson to compete for a backup role behind Eli Manning.
Peterson played five years for the Giants. But two of his last three seasons were severely curtailed by back injuries, including the 2005 campaign, when he played in only two games.
“This is a very disappointing development for our ball club,” general manager Ernie Accorsi said. “Will Peterson was a rising star cornerback and just ran into very tough luck last year with the back injury. We wanted to wait as long as we possibly could on his recovery. We just had him here for a battery of tests and reached the conclusion that we could not wait any longer. He was a fine young player for the Giants and I personally really hate to see him go.”
Johnson has played nine years in the NFL, beginning with Tom Coughlin’s Jacksonville Jaguars from 1995-97. He has also played for Buffalo, Tampa Bay, Washington and Oakland. Johnson did not play in 2004 or 2005 while recovering from arm surgery. In his career, he has played in 48 games with 29 starts. His record as a regular season starter is 12-17. He also started one playoff game. Johnson has completed 494 of 806 career passes (61.3 percent) for 5,795 yards, 30 touchdowns, and 23 interceptions. His career quarterback rating is 83.6. Johnson earned a Super Bowl ring as a backup on the 2002 Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Johnson joins Tim Hasselbeck, Jared Lorenzen and Josh Harris as quarterbacks on the roster behind Manning.
"We needed to add veteran depth at quarterback,” Accorsi said. “Rob hasn't played in a while because he was recovering from Tommy John surgery. But he has won in this league, is in great shape and threw the ball well in his workout. He should be ready go and fully recovered by training camp. You need depth at that critical position."
Peterson joined the Giants as a third-round draft choice in 2001. He was the team’s second selection that year and he was taken 56 spots after the Giants picked another cornerback, Will Allen. The team envisioned Allen and Peterson playing together for many years, but their partnership was hampered by injuries. Allen signed this spring as a free agent with the Miami Dolphins.
In his five seasons with the club, Peterson played in 51 games with 39 starts, plus he started the 2002 NFC Wild Card Game in San Francisco. His career totals were 199 tackles (167 solo) five interceptions, 35 passes defensed, a forced fumble and two special teams tackles.
Peterson’s finest season was in 2004, when he played in all 16 games for the second time in his career, starting in 15 of them at right cornerback. He had 69 tackles (61 solo), two interceptions, a forced fumble and a career-best 16 passes defensed.
As a rookie in 2001, Peterson played in all 16 games with five starts. He started the first game of his career – a Monday night game in Denver – because of an injury to Jason Sehorn. He finished the year with 52 tackles (47 solo) and an interception.
The following year, Peterson missed four games with an assortment of injuries. But he sealed consecutive September victories at St. Louis and vs. Seattle with late fourth-quarter interceptions. Peterson made each pick with less than two minutes remaining. He had 42 tackles (33 solo) and eight passes defensed.
In 2003, Peterson started all five games in which he played at right corner before a stress fracture in his lower back left him inactive, then forced him to go on injured reserve. He last played at New England on Oct. 12. After initially hoping he would return to action, the Giants placed Peterson on injured reserve on Nov. 11. He had 30 tackles (21 solo) and two passes defensed.
After his strong 2004 season, Peterson reported to training camp last year with high hopes. But he suffered a knee injury in the preseason which kept him out of the season-opening victory over Arizona. Peterson started the next two games and had four tackles against both New Orleans and San Diego. He was inactive for the next seven games before being placed on injured reserve on Dec. 7.
Johnson joined the NFL as a fourth-round draft choice by Jacksonville (the 99th overall selection) following a collegiate career at USC. Coughlin was then the coach of the expansion Jaguars. Johnson’s first three NFL seasons were spent primarily as Mark Brunell’s backup. He played in eight games with one start and completed 25 of 35 passes for 368 yards, two touchdowns, and three interceptions.
On Feb. 13, 1998, Johnson was traded from Jacksonville to Buffalo in exchange for the Bills' first and fourth round selections in that year’s draft. Johnson played four years in Buffalo, the first three coinciding with Doug Flutie’s tenure with the Bills. Johnson started 30 games for Buffalo, completing 401 of 663 passes for 4,798 yards, 27 touchdowns and 17 interceptions. His completion percentage of 60.48 is the best in Bills history, placing him ahead of renowned quarterbacks like Jim Kelly and Jack Kemp. Johnson also ranked first in Bills history for lowest interception percentage (2.56) and second in yards per attempt (7.24).
Johnson was released by Buffalo on Feb. 28 2002 and signed by Tampa Bay on March 11. He was active for six games with two starts for the Buccaneers and completed 57 of 88 passes for 536 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions. Johnson played briefly in an NFC Divisional Playoff victory over San Francisco, then earned a ring when Tampa Bay routed Oakland, 48-21, in Super Bowl XXXVII.
Johnson’s next stop was Washington, which signed him as an unrestricted free agent on March 11, 2003. He was waived by the Redskins on Oct. 22 and signed by Oakland on Nov. 4. Johnson played in four games for Oakland, completing 11 of 22 passes for 93 yards, no touchdowns, and 1 interception. He was re-signed by the Raiders as an unrestricted free agent on March 2, 2004 and later released on June 2, 2004.
In the last two years, Johnson has worked at Camp Quarterback, a renowned camp in California run by his father, Bob, that has helped produce outstanding players including Carson Palmer, Drew Brees and David Carr.