It’s no secret that the relationship between Chris Johnson and the Tennessee Titans has seen better days. Johnson does not view the organisation as having the drive to succeed, and the Titans don’t view Johnson as good value for money, and far past his 2,000+ yards per season best in 2009. Johnson, along with most of the rest of the worlds, fully expects for him to be cut by the Titans this offseason. However, with no escalators or bonuses built into his contract which set a deadline for this, the Titans have no particular reason to rush into this, instead hoping that someone will make a trade for the one time NFL superstar.
Johnson’s 2,006 yard season seems like a distant memory, barely even breaking 1,000 in each of his last two seasons in the NFL. Johnson still believes he is an elite talent in the NFL, but few teams would agree.
Johnson hopes that he will get traded sooner, rather than later, knowing that his value falls with every free agent signing, and future star drafted. However, he is aware that his $8 million contract is a major stumbling block for any team considering him.
For the Titans, they are in no rush to release Johnson, knowing that they can cut him any time up to the start of the regular season without incurring any penalties.
Seemingly aware of this, Johnson has reportedly told teams that he is willing to take a pay cut to make a trade happen, and seems to have a few teams in mind. Johnson followed Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones on twitter within hours of the team clearing around $7.5 million in cap space by dropping DeMarcus Ware.
There are reportedly several teams interested in Johnson’s services, who are at least willing to entertain the idea of a trade. Whether any of them would be willing to offer the Titans anything they consider worthwhile, or Johnson anywhere near the sort of value he feels he is worth, remains to be seen however.
The free agency market has not proven lucrative for running backs in 2014. Probably the biggest name to hit the market has been Ben Tate, who recently signed with the Cleveland Browns. Tate has played second fiddle to Arian Foster for most of his NFL career, but in spite of this still rushed for 771 yards in 14 games in 2013, before injury ended his season. Tate was the featured back for 7 of those games, following Foster’s own injury riddled season.
Tate’s 2-year, $6.2 million contract, which has just $2.5 million, sets the bar for running back contracts this season. A deep draft pool, and the prevalence of running back committees on most NFL teams does not help matters either for Johnson.
Johnson may be valued more highly by some teams than Tate, but the reality is, it’s unlikely that Johnson would be guaranteed anywhere near his $8 million 2014 contract, even in two years with most teams.
Whether this is the sort of pay cut Johnson had in mind remains to be seen. Johnson has developed a reputation for being lazy and inconsistent since receiving a sizable contract extension in 2011. Although some teams may be willing to pay Johnson up to somewhere near his current salary level, most teams would likely wish to insulate themselves against the possibility of Johnson failing to perform by including most of that figure in options and bonuses tied to his performance.
Potential trading partners are rumoured to include the Miami Dolphins, who are in need of a dependable running back, and have also been linked to Maurice Jones-Drew, and Oakland Raiders, who have plenty of cap space, but have struggled to woo any big names during free agency, and may be forced into trading if they want to make a splash. Other potential landing spots include the Dallas Cowboys, who could certainly use Johnson’s help, and New England Patriots, who have at least one player of their own who wants out—namely, Vince Wilfork, a nose tackle whom the Titans could certainly use.