CJ-NO-WAY: Sizing up Chris Johnson’s eventual arrival on the 2014 RB market


Titans RB Chris Johnson is soon to be FormerTitans RB Chris Johnson. He answered “no way” when asked if he’d take a pay cut this off-season, and Tennessee will almost surely cut CJ loose.

After Sunday, Johnson will end up having played 3 years and having collected $31 million of the 6 year/ $56 million extension he signed in September of 2011.

What does this mean for Johnson’s future? Once released, he should immediately become the most desirable back in a weak 2014 UFA RB market, which includes an aging MJD, the talented yet injury-prone Darren McFadden, the Giants’ Andre Brown and the Colts’ Donald Brown.

With 950 rushing yards, Johnson needs 50 yards in Sunday’s finale to reach the 1,000-yard mark for his 6th straight season.  If Johnson gets his usual workload, he should reach this feat.  Yet his usual workload (he’s averaging 16.8 carries/game this season) will put him at 269 carries for the year—an average of 288 carries per year in his 6 years as a Titan.  While he’ll still be 28 on next opening day, that’s a lot of tread on his tires.

Reggie Bush, the crop of last year’s free agent RB class, signed a 4 year/$16 million deal with $5 million in guarantees.  While Bush had played one more season then CJ, he had significantly less usage—Bush averaged 138 carries per year over his 7 year span prior to hitting free agency.

It’d make sense if Johnson received a contract in the same range as Bush’s deal. The 2014 cap is preliminary expected to be $126.3 million, which should give teams a little more spending room.  However, even with this extra spending money, I’d be surprised to see any team give much more than $5 million guaranteed to a running back that’s been used so heavily and is primed to enter his decline phase sooner rather than later.

Possible destinations:

Cleveland: The early favorite, the Brown’s will have a ton of cap space and RB is one of their biggest needs.

Oakland: Their cap situation has been restored from the Al Davis days. McFadden will likely depart. I have a feeling GM Reggie McKenzie will spend money in other areas, though, and have faith that Rashad Jennings will be able to handle primary back duties.

Jets: The Jets will also have some money to spend, and CJ would fit in nicely next to Chris Ivory. However, Gang Green may have more pressing needs to fill.

Miami: They lacked playmaking from the RB position after letting Bush leave in FA.  2014 is the last year of Daniel Thomas’ rookie deal…

Andrew Cohen