Former 2,000-yard rusher Chris Johnson -- a.k.a. CJ2K a.k.a. CJ?K -- was cut by the Titans on Friday. He's now a free agent heading into a very soft running back market. Despite the limited funds available to running backs in free agency, there will be interest in Johnson.
He's too explosive and his production year-to-year has been too consistent for teams to completely ignore him.
So where could he land? Let's look at some spots.
Rex Ryan's club has to be the favorite for Johnson's services. They fit all the criteria to land the running back. Ryan likes to run the ball and run the ball often. Geno Smith or Michael Vick under center won't change that, although Vick's mobility would help rushing lanes for Johnson. The Jets have plenty of cap space, although they probably won't use that much of it signing Johnson; John Idzik hasn't been splurging in free agency. Johnson has the best chance of becoming a "feature back" again with New York thanks to their limited depth chart. Bilal Powell, Chris Ivory, Mike Goodson and Alex Green would be his only real competition.
The interest would be mutual if Johnson likes New York:
When the Titans release Chris Johnson, likely later today, I continue to expect the Jets to be a primary suitor— Jason La Canfora (@JasonLaCanfora) April 4, 2014
The idea of Tom Coughlin and Chris Johnson together is ... odd. But the Giants are in pretty desperate need of an improvement in their running game. David Wilson, a former first-round pick, is completely up in the air right now. The Giants are "counting on" Wilson being ready in 2014 but that should be a red flag in and of itself. Signing Rashad Jennings in free agency helps but he was cheap and not guaranteed to carry the load in New York. Peyton Hillis is a goal line back at this point. Johnson would equate to a potential upgrade, or at least someone who can pop off big runs and keep defenses honest.
The Cowboys already have DeMarco Murray, don't have much cap space ($12 million per Spotrac.com) and should absolutely be more interested in improving their defense. But that's not stopping the speculation from running both wild and rampant. Thank goodness. Jerry Jones reportedly wanted Johnson back in 2008 when the Cowboys were drafted, but ended up nabbing Mike Jenkins when Jeff Fisher grabbed Johnson for the Titans. This move wouldn't make any sense at all except, well, Cowboys.
Atlanta's running game stalled out in a major way in 2013, which was particularly awkward since they signed Steven Jackson as a free agent. Coupling Johnson and Jackson would be interesting; Atlanta's in a similar spot as the Cowboys in that they need to invest more in their defense. They have less cap money than Dallas ($8.7 million per Spotrac.com) and a similar offense: stacked at wideout with Julio Jones and Roddy White, set at quarterback with Matt Ryan and facing some questions on the offensive line. Hard to imagine Johnson being really attracted to Atlanta based on Jackson's presence.
The Jeff Fisher connection is really the only reason to keep St. Louis on here. Fisher obviously loved Johnson coming out and Johnson had great success under his old coach. The Rams have invested in the offensive line recently (and are likely to do so in the coming draft) so they should have a strong running game in 2014. Unfortunately for Johnson, it's as strong as it is because of Zac Stacy. The second-year back out of Vanderbilt exploded down the stretch for Fisher in 2013, running behind a busted offensive line and with Kellen Clemens under center. He has all the makings of a feature back, so the Rams could be hesitant to bring in Johnson and limit Stacy's touches. Johnson won't likely want to deal with a timeshare in St. Louis either.