The Cardinals and Ohio State offensive lineman Paris Johnson Jr. felt like destiny.
Johnson was very familiar with the Bird Gang. His father was drafted by the Cardinals in 1999 and was with the team for one year.
For Paris Johnson Jr., it was a chance to keep this connection in the family.
“I feel like I’m supposed to be here,” Johnson said. “I feel like I’m invited on this 30 visit because I’m supposed to finish what my dad started.”
Johnson took a 30 visit with the Cardinals and his feelings were solidified toward the franchise. He ran into Kyler Murray and gave him a head nod. Murray responded, “Hey Paris, come here for a second.”
Johnson was dumbfounded that Murray knew who he was. He texted his Ohio State teammate Luke Wypler, “Dude. Kyler know’s my freaking first name.”
Kyler knew more about Paris than just his name.
“I would love for you to be a Cardinal,” Kyler told Johnson.
LFG! Let’s get to work big fella! @ParisJohnsonJr
— Kyler Murray (@K1) April 28, 2023
It would seal the deal for the Cardinals to the point that Johnson said he would have felt “a little sad” had Arizona not taken him in the first round. That vote of confidence from Kyler made Johnson want to keep him upright that much more.
“I love the hustle he plays with,” Johnson said of Murray. “I love the way he extends plays. I love how he trusts his tackles to stay in the pocket. If something were to break down, he fights to the finish.
“I want to be a part of the guys that protect him so he doesn’t have to (improvise) as often.”
But it takes two to tango when it comes to the NFL Draft, and for this dance to go off without a hitch, the Cardinals needed the right dance steps to lock down the offensive lineman.
While Arizona was on the clock in the third slot, Paris was locked in.
“I was staring at my phone the entire freaking time,” he recalls.
Paris Johnson Jr. is such a problem 🤣 @ParisJohnsonJr pic.twitter.com/jPyFHgDfNv
— Overtime (@overtime) April 28, 2023
But the Cardinals traded out of that slot and down to the 12th pick. Johnson was concerned this match made in heaven wouldn’t come to fruitiion with the Raiders, Falcons and Bears now ahead of the Cardinals and looking to add along the offensive line.
But then the Cardinals went all-in to get back in to the top ten to take Johnson, acquiring the sixth overall pick. First year general manager Monti Ossenfort added a second round pick this year along with a first and third pick next year. That extra draft capital helped pave the way for the deal to take Johnson.
“Whenever you’re you have the ability to add first round picks, whether it’s this year or next year, that’s always something that’s intriguing, because it just gives us flexibility going into next year,” Ossenfort said. “It helped that that some of the currency that we gained and the trade back, we use it to move back up.”
Part of what makes Johnson such an appealing option for the Cardinals is his versatility. He’s played guard and tackle and thrived at both positions. In a line that has quesitons on the interior of the line, that versatility could be helpful.
“Paris has played guard, he’s played tackle,” Ossenfort said. “It’s an opportunity to add a high character individual who’s also got a lot of ability on the field. So the opportunity presented itself and we went ahead and made the move.”
It was path that zigged and zagged to get the Johnson family back to Arizona, but Paris will now look to make clear, straight paths for his new Cardinal teammates.