Dec 29, 2013; Nashville, TN, USA; Tennessee Titans running back Chris Johnson (28) carries the ball against the Houston Texans during the second half at LP Field. Tennessee won 16-10. Mandatory Credit: Jim Brown-USA TODAY Sports
One way or another, the Tennessee Titans are moving on from star running back Chris Johnson. Vastly overpaid and not nearly as consistently dominant as in year’s past, CJ2k had probably worn out his welcome in Tennessee even if there hadn’t been a regime shift.
The arrival of head coach Ken Whisenhunt almost surely puts the clamps down on a Johnson exit, which is expected to come to fruition soon in the form of a trade or release. Tennessee wisely sees that Johnson does have some trade value still, however, and will reportedly try to get something back for their longtime back if possible.
Regardless of whether or not a trade can be worked out, though, the writing is on the wall. Wiz and co. brought in former Kansas City Chiefs offensive weapon Dexter McCluster earlier in the week via free agency and intend on using him as a running back. With McCluster supposedly operating out of the backfield like Danny Woodhead did for Whisenhunt with the San Diego Chargers are power back Shonn Greene already in place, there just isn’t any room left for Johnson and his salary.
With that, it’s only a matter of time before Chris Johnson gets shipped off to his new team or picks one as a fresh free agent after being cut. Contrary to popular belief, there actually does appear to be some real interest in Johnson in the form of trade and there are reportedly several interested parties.
Let’s beat the Titans to the punch and go over CJ2k’s top options via trade or free agency:
I’m not sure the Cardinals are really desperate for a running back, as they really like Andre Ellington, but they should definitely try to upgrade at the position. Rashard Mendenhall is retiring and they only have average or unproven talent behind Ellington. Carson Palmer and the passing game could really use the extra help, so improving the rushing attack as much as possible would be a good idea. Trading for Johnson could accomplish that.
New York Jets
Johnson has caved recently and while he’s not willing to take a paycut to stay in Tennessee, reports suggest he is willing to cut down his salary a bit to help expedite a trade away from the Titans. The Jets make some sense as a trade partner, as they currently have the defense needed to make the long trek to the Super Bowl, and are simply a stable offense away from realizing their dream. They have Chris Ivory in place as their main back, but he’s never been able to stay healthy and he’s nowhere near the home-run threat Johnson can still be. It’d be a somewhat unnecessary splash, but if Johnson wants a chance at winning and the Jets are committed to getting better in all facets on offense, it’s a deal that could make some sense.
New England Patriots
LeGarrette Blount is a free agent, Shane Vereen struggles to stay healthy and Stevan Ridley can’t stop fumbling. Bill Belichick and co. love taking on problem children, especially when they still have talent to be drained out of their bodies. CJ2k fits the bill and fills what remains a need in New England’s offense. Considering the Pats just went through the toughest offensive season they’ve seen in a while, they’d be wise to protect themselves from getting any more predictable on that side of the ball. Landing Johnson could go a long way in doing that.
Ben Tate remains on Cleveland’s radar, but he has a rough injury history and isn’t even a lock to sign. Why not trade for the aging but still explosive Johnson, anyways? The Browns actually appear headed in the right direction for the first time in forever in terms of talent, and making sure they can effectively run the ball would be a heck of a plan. Considering they went week to week with the dying Willis McGahee last season, Johnson would be beyond an upgrade.
Miami has been spending money everywhere else the past two years, so why stop at running back? Lamar Miller was pretty much a bust in 2013 and it’s clear by now that the plodding Daniel Thomas isn’t the answer, either. There’s still hope for Miller, but if the Fins really want to take the next step in 2014, they need to make sure they can run the ball. A key step is reshaping their damaged offensive line, but step two is landing a guy who actually knows how to run the ball. Johnson can still do that, and as long as Miami fixes their blocking, it could be a perfect marriage.
St. Louis Rams
This probably isn’t the most likely trade partner, as the Rams found their franchise runner last year in rookie Zac Stacy, but Jeff Fisher drafted Johnson and has always been a fan of him. In fact, he even tried to draft his own “new CJ” when he selected Isaiah Pead a couple years ago. That didn’t work out and as good as Stacy is, he still doesn’t have the long speed and explosiveness Johnson offers. If the deal is sweet enough, Fisher could grab his old runner and form quite the formidable one-two punch in the backfield – much like he did in Tennessee when he paired Johnson with LenDale White. Just imagine the possibilities with Johnson’s speed on the turf in St. Louis.
This spot is even less likely, but for a team that doesn’t want to pay Knowshon Moreno and will otherwise lean almost completely on Montee Ball in 2014, it’s a move at least worth pondering. Johnson would leap at the chance to play for a winner – much less an offensive team built to kill. He’d have to offer a substantial pay cut, but with the door open for a shared backfield at the very worst, he might see the value in it. If the Broncos do too, it could be a deal worth making.
This post comes from Kevin Roberts of FantasyFootballOverdose.com. You can follow the Fantasy Football Overdose Google+ Page, and for more Tennessee Titans analysis visit Fantasy Football Overdose, a fantasy football blog.