Chris Johnson: The Titans’ Identity

Photo: Chris Johnson, courtesy Titans Gab

I’ve been thinking about this contract dispute between Johnson and the Titans. Which side is more in the right? How much money does he really deserve? Should the option of trading him be a realistic option?

All these questions and really only one answer: Chris Johnson IS the Titans.

If they trade him….

The biggest problem the Titans brass face is that the Titans aren’t the Patriots. If you heard that the Patriots traded Tom Brady, you would initially be shocked. After the shock wears off, you would then remember that it’s the Patriots and Bill Bellicheck thoroughly plans every move. If the ‘great hooded one’ were to trade a star player (Moss), then he would do it in a way that the team would keep rolling (14-2). Bill Bellicheck and his genius remains the true identity of the Patriots. Chris Johnson’s ability to break open any play is the Titans true identity. That’s why this situation is so tough.

The Titans aren’t afforded that kind of depth, so they would need to sign another RB to the roster in the scenario that they do indeed trade Chris Johnson. Either to compete with Stafon Johnson for the third spot, or to replace Chris Johnson as the featured back.

A trade could be good for the team in a long run. GM Mike Reinfeldt seems to have a good handle on running the front office and would do much better with a collection of picks similar to what Denver got for Jay Cutler. Imagine the improvement the team would have long-term. I doubt any Titans fan would complain if Reinfeldt drafted a MLB similar to Ray Lewis, a DT similar to Haloti Ngata, and a center simliar to…..well, Kevin Mawae. It would just take a few years to happen, but afterwards the team would be set for many, many years. The short-term sacrifice is a loss in team identity…….at least until they start winning without Chris Johnson.

So, about those questions:

Which side is more right? They are both wrong for letting it last this long, but If I had to choose one side, I’d go with the team. They knew what situation they were getting into when this wasn’t handled last summer.

How much money does he really deserve? Johnson deserves the most money in the league for the RB position. Anything past that should be considered a gift of good faith by the team. Certain positions don’t last as long as others, compare the QB and RB positions. The top QB affects the game more than the top RB. So, when comparing the two, it’s hard to argue that Johnson’s worth is equal to the top players of the game. If the team wants to pay him upwards of $40 million guaranteed so that he gets paid as a top-5 skill position player, then by all means do it. The problem with this is that Johnson will eventually get cut due to what some call ‘salary cap woes’.

Should the option of trading him become a realistic option? Only if the team cannot reach an agreement with Johnson. I’ve written before that Johnson outplayed his contract, which he did. Johnson does deserve more money, but I wouldn’t pay him as a top-5 skill player. I would pay him as the top RB.

Luckily, the Titans have drafted well in recent years and as Justin wrote on this site recently: No Chris Johnson, No Problem. Now, Ringer and Harper don’t combine to be as great as Chris Johnson, but they do combine with the passing game for an effective offense. The Titans have this argument in the negotiating room, and if worst comes to worst, they can trade Johnson. I just don’t see it as a realistic option, I think they’ll keep the high-profile player. Let’s just hope that no permanent damage has been done to CJ’s relationship with the team  over this contract dispute. If permanent damage had been done to the teams relationship with Johnson, then we’ll know because he won’t suit up for the team.

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