With Titans star RB Chris Johnson currently holding out of training camp to make a point to Titans officials and Titans officials explaining that they will negotiate once he is in camp, this places both ends of the situation at a stalemate. Needless to say, we have some time on our hands, so join us in our in-depht look at the man known as CJ2K and decide whether or not he deserves a new contract.
If you’re looking to catch up, please read part 1 and the article where I explain how low Johnson ranked as a 3rd down back. Part 1 was a positive look at his past, while the second article showed a negative part of his game. Keep in mind that through this holdout, Johnson lost a year accrued toward NFL Free Agency. If it sounds weird to you, remember the new CBA changed things.
So, where does that leave us? The future.
If you look at the current state of the Tennessee Titans, they are rebuilding. They will field a stop-gap quarterback, an awful (for the most part) interior offensive line, a shuffled defensive line with the primary run-stopper being a stop-gap player as well, a secondary that will most likely be shaken up after the 2011 season in major ways, and a linebacking corps that will be lead by player on a one-year deal (MLB Barrett Ruud). The wide receivers are a fun group, too. The only star-caliber player in the group has repeatedly shown that he wants nothing more than to be a clown. I’m seriously wondering if Kenny Britt can read at this point. He seems like a nice guy, but WOW does he cause problems in the dumbest of ways. Everyone behind Britt is either an overpaid, under-achieveing veteran or a younger player that has yet to proven themselves. The fullback situation isn’t great, though some would argue otherwise and really the only thing going for this offense, aside from Johnson, remains the solid play of the offensive tackles.
Jonson makes the offense far better than it should be, but with a 26th birthday coming up and the team aware of the short shelf life of RB’s in today’s NFL, one has to wonder if he is done. Now, I’m sure they would love to keep him around at this cheap rate that he currently plays for, and it is cheap. However, Johnson holding out of camp puts a damper on that notion. So, what are the options for the team? Pay him or trade him.
The first option: pay him. Johnson’s play has been fantastic thus far. He single-handedly sets the focus for the opposing teams defense and he can change a whole game for the Titans. You will be hard pressed to find someone that can intellectually argue that Chris Johnson is not a top-5 RB in the NFL. The Titans are currently so desperate for top tier talent, that having a top-5 player at any position remains a point of bragging. The only player that could be argued otherwise seems to be wideout Kenny Britt. Britt….actually I’m done commenting on Britt for the day. He’s not top-5 at his position, but could be one day. Back on Johnson, he is rare. The Titans may never have a back this explosive and they should enjoy every minute that Chris Johnson is on the field. He brings star-exposure to the organization. He doesn’t get in trouble and he enjoys time spent with the fans. He is someone that you want to keep with the organization.
It’s obvious that Johnson’s past play earned him much more money than he has been paid and the front office in TN should be thankful that they got such performances for such little expense, but the past doesn’t always translate to the future and that’s why trade exists as a real option here. It might sound foreign to you, but here at TitanSized, this has been an option for quite some time as Walker Thomas will no doubt preach in the comments below hahaha.
So, trading Johnson, is this wise? Yes and No. It depends what school of thought you belong to: long-term or short-term. Both would be solutions as Johnson holding out from training camp has proven to be a distraction to the team and when a player can stage a holdout like this, risking somewhere around $30K per missed day and miss out on a full year towards free agency, you have a problem. They are sending the message to the team and the world that they aren’t treated well enough to come play for that team. Compared to Houston where Rushing Title-Holder Arian Foster attends camp with the contract of an Undrafted Free Agent, well this looks real bad on the Titans. You might say that’s just the thing that a good soldier like Arian Foster would do and that Chris Johnson isn’t as good of a team player, but he is. If you’ve followed Johnson through his career, you would know that without question, Johnson plays for the team.
If the team were to trade Johnson now, they would run away with a king’s ransom in draft picks that could be placed toward the team’s future. Draft picks are vital to a team, especially a team that is rebuilding whether they admit this fact or not, they are in a state of rebuilding. The most realistic shot of constant competitiveness the Titans have starts in about 3 years, once rookie QB Jake Locker regularly suits up as QB1 and after he has gone through most of his ‘rookie moments’. This team isn’t built for now, but Johnson’s window is now. He most likely won’t be as good in 3 years, when at 29 years old he may have 2 decent years left, so the wisest decision the team can make is to trade him out of conference to a team they don’t play this year that will give them the most picks–think Dallas. Dallas gave up a first rounder and more for Detroit Wideout Roy Williams who was released this year after never living up to expectations, but it doesn’t matter. Owner Jerry Jones will never learn about that type of thing, he wants star power and wants it so bad that he will sacrifice anything for it. Other teams have this bug too. This best move for the team is to capitilize on this and trade Johnson while the iron is hot, collect their picks and build this team to be as strong as possible. One player can’t win a Super Bowl (see: Manning, Peyton), but a team of talented, team-oriented players can win a Super Bowl. Keep drafting well and it will come. Keep getting picks and the opportunities for drafting well multiply. If you draft well, you can’t make this a bad move.
To the argument that Johnson is a known commodity and the draft picks aren’t, that’s a fair point. The problem is that Johnson will get more than $20 million guaranteed and the salary cap will take a serious hit when he is cut in 3-4 years and the team gets left with the burden to carry extra money on the cap that can’t be applied toward other players. Add on to the cap issue that those extra picks were never received and the team couldn’t hurry the growth process and we have a team that is set back another few years.