D.C. United fulfills promise by upgrading Eddie Johnson to a Designated Player deal

Eddie Johnson has plenty of reason to celebrate after signing a new contract with D.C. United on Thursday.

David Richard/David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

D.C. United promised to evaluate Eddie Johnson’s contractual status when it acquired him from Seattle during the offseason. It took a bit of time, but United acted decisively to reward its star striker with a contract commensurate with his performances in MLS over the past couple of seasons.

Johnson has signed a new contract with MLS and United, the club confirmed in a statement on Thursday. The exact terms of the deal were not disclosed per club and league policy, but the club said Johnson, 29, will count as a Designated Player this season.

"I want to thank D.C. United for showing faith in me,” Johnson said in a statement released by the team. “I’m extremely proud to wear the Black-and-Red, and I am excited to get the season started with my new teammates."

The outward show of faith matters a great deal to Johnson in the wake of the trials and tribulations in Seattle a year ago. The groundwork for his move to United started when Johnson expressed displeasure with his contractual status with Sounders FC last year. Johnson scored a team-high nine goals last season, but his base salary of $150,000, according to MLS Players Union documents, represented a mere fraction of the money splashed out on international teammate Clint Dempsey ($4.9 million) and Nigerian international Obafemi Martins ($1.6 million). 

READ: Eddie Johnson prepares for the spotlight with D.C. United

Seattle lacked the desire and the flexibility to upgrade Johnson’s contract ahead of the 2014 season and opted to shop him in the trade market instead. United shipped an undisclosed amount of allocation money to Sounders FC in December to obtain his services and reinforced its desire to amend his deal to a more appropriate salary level (likely in the mid-to-high six figures).

United followed through on its promise by handing Johnson this DP deal and underscoring his value to the club in the process. It is a wise move given the ample responsibility placed at Johnson’s feet this year and the pressing need for the U.S. international to provide the goals to fire United up the table. This side desperately needs Johnson to maintain the pace set over the two years (23 goals in 49 league appearances) to cure its goalscoring concerns from a year ago and fuel its quest to return to the playoffs. By sorting out the negotiations now, United places Johnson in a position to focus solely on that task instead of any lingering discussions about his contractual status.

This deal will cost United some money out of pocket (always a consideration for the investor/operators given the onerous lease deal in place at RFK Stadium) at this price point, but the added expense will prove more than worthwhile if Johnson responds positively with his future now secured and scores the goals necessary to spur dramatic improvement this season.