Chris Johnson wants to get paid. And by paid I don’t mean he simply wants to redo his rookie contract which grossly underpays him [he is scheduled to make $550,000 with escalators maxing 2011 out at 1.25 million]. Johnson isn’t even looking to get paid what the top player [Adrian Peterson, right around 10 million this season] at his position makes. Johnson wants to be paid like one of the top players in the NFL. Every indication is that the Titan’s running back is seeking 50 million in guaranteed money with an annual salary of nearly 15 million dollars a year.
Johnson, is who will turn 26 years old at the start of this his 4<sup>th</sup> NFL season is without question one of the league’s top 3 running backs and one of the NFL’s most exciting players. He is the face of the Titan’s franchise and basically the heart and soul of their offense. He is definitely right to demand more money and despite having 2 years and all the leverage in their corner, I think the Titans should give him a bump and pay him like one of the top players at his position.
That said, under no circumstance whatsoever should Bud Adams budge and pay CJ2K anything close to his demands. Two reasons why. First, the least important position in the NFL is running back. Mike Shanahan proved that in Denverwhere guys like Terrell Davis [6<sup>th</sup> round pick] Olandis Gary [4<sup>th</sup> Round pick], and Mike Anderson [6<sup>th</sup> Round Pick] all rushed for 1,110 yard plus seasons while leadingDenver’s rushing attack. Denver in the 90s and early 00s changed the landscape of the NFL forever. They proved you didn’t have to have a featured back to succeed. After Denver, teams realized that in a salary cap world, money that was previously spent on the “franchise” back was better used elsewhere. Teams that succeeded stopped spending money on the position.New England took that moto to the next level winning Super Bowls with guys like Antowain Smith and Kevin Faulk at the position.
Here is a list of the stating running backs in the for the winning Super Bowl team over the last 10 seasons and the round they were drafted.
2011 James Starks, 6<sup>th</sup> Round
2010 Pierre Thomas, Undrafted
2009 Willie Parker, Undrafted
2008 Brandon Jacobs, 4<sup>th</sup> Round
2007 Joseph Addai, 1<sup>st</sup> Round
2006 Willie Parker, undrafted
2005 Corey Dillion, 2<sup>nd</sup> Round
2004 Antowain Smith, 1<sup>st</sup> Round
2003 Michael Pittman, 4<sup>th</sup> Round
2002 Antowain Smith, 1<sup>st</sup> Round
Of these backs, two were taken in the first round while 5 were taken in the 4<sup>th</sup> round or later or not drafted at all. More importantly for the two first round guys [and Corey Dillion the second round player] none cost their team more than 1.7 million in the year they won the Super Bowl. Last season the highest paid running backs in the NFL were in no particular order were Maurice Jones-Drew, Clinton Portis, Adrian Peterson and Steven Jackson. None of their respective teams made the playoffs. The bottom line is that money that should be spent on improving other areas that aren’t as deep as running back was wasted on these franchise backs.
The second reason the Titans shouldn’t cave in is because of the short shelf life of NFL running backs and the affect the pounding they take has on their careers. It is no coincidence that as studies come out that demonstrate the decline of backs as they approach 30, more and more teams have gone with 2 back systems. It is also no coincidence that the season after guys have had historic seasons they have either gotten hurt or dramatically declined in the following season. See, Terrell Davis [injured], Jamal Anderson [injured], Larry Johnson [injured], Clinton Portis [injured], Michael Turner [big decline in following season’s numbers and even Chris Johnson [700 less yards and nearly a yard per carry less] just to name a few.
Signing these guys to big, long term contracts is simply not good for business. Chris Johnson is getting bad advice and trying to compare his demands to the recently signed contract of Larry Fitzgerald is simply not going to get him a new contract. The Titan’s should learn from history and either trade him to someone that is willing to give him 8-10 million a year or offer him a more practical contract that wont handicap the team’s future. However, as he is the face of the franchise, I’m guessing the Titans are still be willing to make him the highest paid back in league history, but the longer he waits the more likely it is that Bud Adams [heis clearly not happy with the situation]decided to dig his feet in and stay put. In either case, under no circumstance should the Titans or any other team for that matter pay a running back a salary comparable to any of the league’s other positions.
As always you can email me at Triumphe@bellsouth.net and follow me on Twitter at mmt0315. I’ve also recently started my own website which you can visit at www.mmtsportsblog.com there, you’ll find more frequent content, like fantasy football insight, random sports picks or anything that catches my attention in the world of sports that I feel like randomly talking about.