I've got an idea, let's talk about Chris Johnson some more! I've been doing some pondering about what a massive contract would mean for not just the Titans, but the NFL. Would CJ's new deal set the precedent for which all future contracts to superstar running backs (or play makers, whatever) are structured upon? Tough to say right off the bat. Ultimately though, I don't think it should.
First off, I get the feeling that Chris Johnson is very interested in cashing in on his 2,000 yard campaign in a big way. While I have my doubts that he can ever repeat such an accomplishment, the fact that he's reached it once already shows that he is one of very few players in NFL history that could theoretically justify a deal of the magnitude that we're talking about right now. To say that he hasn't earned it is kind of crazy, especially given that his supporting cast these past couple of years might as well have taken the field in clown shoes. Talk about gaudy carry numbers all you want, it just strengthens his case for me when you factor in his remarkable durability. He's a reliable, albeit unspectacular, receiving outlet, but more importantly, he can take pressure off of the passing game by keeping the Titans out of obvious passing situations.
That's not the point I'm trying to make here, what I'm arguing is that Chris Johnson's new deal shouldn't set a market standard for the highest paid running back, even if it probably will. If the NFL Hall of Fame included every highest paid back in history, the wings would be filled with obscure players. Even if it's still early in his career, I think CJ has earned the label as a "special" running back. His impact on the game is incredible. As the fastest man in the NFL, he's a threat to take the ball to the house every single time he touches the ball. Really, there haven't ever been very many players like this. Based on sheer game-breaking ability, it's probably not too much of a stretch to talk about CJ as an all-time great before long. Perhaps my favorite example is the Barry Sanders comparison. The numbers that these two put up in their first three years are extremely similar. Does this mean that CJ is equal to or greater than Barry Sanders? No, not yet at least, but right now, their careers are very easy to draw parallels from. His straight up ability helps make him one of the team's most valuable assets.
Ultimately, once this contract drops, I think it will help set the new market value for the "best" running back in the league. As time goes on, salaries are going to go up. The NFL is a league that pulls in $9 billion a year, when one of its' prime players wants a new deal, he's going to get it in a big way. However, I don't think that just being the best running back in the league should be enough to max out at a deal that may or may not guarantee upwards of $30 million. Chris Johnson has been historically good through his first three years in the NFL. He's on pace to produce at the same rate as one of the greatest to ever play the game, and he's already logged a season in which he's broken 2,000 yards on the ground and smashed the NFL record for yards from scrimmage. I'm not saying that the next big thing at running back won't get a deal of the same staggering quantity, but I don't know if there will be as much of a case for this mystery player.
In a nutshell? Historic achievements warrant historic amounts of money. Should this mystery player not reach the same heights that CJ has reached when it comes time to sign a new deal, I don't know that he should be awarded the same amount. As long as he doesn't outproduce CJ, he shouldn't out-earn CJ. Unfortunately for whoever has to pay this guy, that's not the way things work. Should DeAngelo Williams be earning more than Jamaal Charles? Nah, but that's also just not how things are done with NFL contracts. I don't think what I'm saying here is anything new or revolutionary, but does anyone really disagree?