The Titans have a star running back in Chris Johnson, but what’s that worth in today’s NFL? Tennessee has a $23 million decision to make and we debate. Dan Salem and Todd Salem tackle the Titans in part one of this week’s TD Sports Debate. Two brothers from New York yell, scream and debate the NFL and sports.
The prevailing wisdom around the league seems to be that the Tennessee Titans should release running back Chris Johnson this offseason.
He still has three years remaining on his contract. Tennessee will owe him $8 million in 2014, another $8 million in 2015 and $7 million in 2015…if he finishes out his current deal. While a restructuring has been shot down by Johnson, if the Titans release the back, they won’t owe him any of that money. This is the NFL after all, not Major League Baseball. Besides whatever bonus Johnson is owed, Tennessee can cut Johnson loose cleanly right now and not owe him any of that $23 million.
My Tennessee-fan friend wants the team to do exactly that. He would be fine with cutting CJ and replacing him with someone like Knowshon Moreno.
This feeling is not out of the ordinary. Many people feel as though Johnson is no longer an elite back, meaning a switch to a player at Moreno’s level would be an upgrade. However, I’m not sure that is the case.
Johnson’s career numbers are indisputable. He topped 2000 rushing yards in 2009. He’s gone over 1000 all six years of his career. He has a 4.6 career yards per carry average.
While there has clearly been a decline since his 2000-yard season, that is nothing but expected. The other five years of Johnson’s career have been pretty steady and steadily good.
He’s averaged a shade over 45 catches per season, with no season seeing a catch total below 36 or above 57. His 4.6 career YPC average is consistent as well, as last year was the first season CJ ever dipped below the 4.0 mark. To combat that decline, Johnson managed to get in the endzone 10 times in 2013 (6 rushing, 4 receiving), his highest total since 2010.
There is no denying CJ2K is no longer that guy from ’09. However, his demise has been greatly exaggerated. In fact, Johnson actually finished ’13 with more rushing yards than the Denver Broncos’ Moreno did. He was one of only 13 players to top 1000 last season. For every point mentioning how Johnson is on his way out, they should also mention how the rushing game around the league is dipping.
Only one player in the entire NFL topped 1400 yards rushing last season: LeSean McCoy. The year before? Six guys did it and no one was talking about the Titans releasing Johnson then, coming off of another 1200+ yard season.
Maybe it’s time for the Tennessee Titans to get the rest of their offense squared away, mainly at quarterback, before focusing on cutting the cord with CJ. He hardly seems like the problem with that unit.
Your logic for keeping Chris Johnson is solid, but that doesn’t make it any less flawed. The Titans need to release or trade CJ now, before the draft. It’s simply that simple.
I like CJ as a player and think he would be a great addition to any team. If the New York Jets traded their second or third round pick for him today, I would be thrilled! What makes for a great running back these days is pass catching ability and CJ has been solid his entire career doing just that and more. He is all wrong for the Titans’ future however. Tennessee is coming off a losing season, yet did finish second in their division. Houston won’t be nearly as bad next year, but the Colts are the team to beat and Tennessee needs more talent to improve and compete with Luck and company. How do you get talent? With a damn good bargaining chip, be it a player or money. CJ provides both.
If trading Johnson is not an option, then cutting him is the only smart decision here. Rookie and second year running backs have been making waves for years now, mainly because of strong offensive line play and smart quarterback decision-making. Heck, the New England Patriots have dominated without a name in their backfield, basically swapping guys every season to fill that hole. I realize they are generally the exception, but I only have to look towards my Jets to see how an average running back, Shonn Greene whom the Titans already have on roster, can succeed behind a dominant offensive line. So if the Titans cut CJ, what do they do with all that money?
I want to see Tennessee do two things. First, sign a veteran tight end. Second, shore up the offensive line which allowed 37 sacks last season. Ryan Fitzpatrick and Jake Locker may not be super star quarterbacks, but neither man is a lost cause. They can both succeed in this league. Piggy backing on your argument from last week, they both fall into that Andy Dalton category in my opinion. Get them some protection, some youth at running back from the draft, an old dude at tight end, and watch as Kendall Wright and Nate Washington go crazy again in the passing game.