After the mini-camp the Tennessee Titans' players put together last week Chris Johnson said all of the right things about his contract and reporting to camp on time. Over the weekend he held his football camp and said the same things when he talked to the media, but Jim Wyatt still says that CJ will hold out if he doesn't get a new contract.
....When he finally reported for training camp, Johnson – who had $30 million guaranteed in mind — said it wouldn’t happen again. And I believe him.
Indications are Johnson’s not going to budge this time. I’ve heard it from too many sources to think otherwise.
However, the key with Johnson—or any player at the RB position in this league—is determining their value and long-term production. A physical position that will wear players down.
There is no doubt that the Titans are going to have to pay Johnson if they plan on keeping him, so the question becomes how much and for how long? CJ has said that he wants to be the highest paid offensive player in the league. Hopefully his agent has worked on managing expectations.
There is no doubt that CJ is the best running back in the NFL, but running backs just aren't as valuable as they were ten years ago. They have a very small window to be dominant. Look at guys like my boy Shaun Alexander and LaDainian Tomlinson. Alexander went from 37 TDs and 5.1 yards per carry in 2005 to 7 TDs and 3.6 yards per carry just one year later. LT went from 28 TDs and 5.2 yards per carry in 2006 to 11 and 3.8 two years later. For both of those guys the drop off came around year seven in the league.
Johnson is about to enter year four. That means that best case scenario the Titans can count on him being in his prime for four more years.
All of that being said, if the Titans are going to give CJ his big payday, I hope they go ahead and do it before this season. Sign him to a 5-year deal with a huge signing bonus (after the lockout is over). That way you pay him most of the money while he is still productive, and if he does suffer the drop off that guys like Alexander and LT did cutting him in the 5th year wouldn't result in a huge cap hit.