Updates from Tuesday, Jan. 28
Chris Johnson updated fans on his knee after surgery via his Twitter account:
Tennessee Titans running back Chris Johnson's exorbitant contract may lead to an expeditious departure this offseason, but it will be hard for anyone on the open market to question his toughness.
According to CBS Sports' Jason La Canfora, Johnson played almost the entire 2013 season with a meniscus tear in his knee and will undergo surgery on Tuesday, Jan. 28, to correct it:
Johnson spent time on the Titans' injury report during the season and even missed practices while dealing with soreness, but the extent of his injury was not made public until Monday. The 28-year-old back told Jim Wyatt of The Tennessean that he sustained the injury during Tennessee's Week 3 victory over the San Diego Chargers:
He did not exit that contest or miss any extended time, playing in all 16 games for the fifth straight season. Recovery is expected to take a little more than a month, which should make for serendipitous timing for Johnson, per La Canfora.
A three-time Pro Bowler and the 2009 NFL Offensive Player of the Year, Johnson is widely expected to see his time with the Titans come to an end. He is due an $8 million base salary along with $2 million stretched out from his signing bonus, giving him a cap hit of $10 million for 2014, the highest on the Titans roster. The structure of Johnson's contract, per Spotrac, presents Tennessee the opportunity to save right around $6 million by cutting its losses now.
With Johnson's production never coming close to reaching his 2,006-yard campaign from 2009 and running backs being placed at less of a premium than ever, the divorce has been written for a while. Wyatt laid out the case for the Titans releasing their best back since Eddie George, citing myriad reasons—most of which related to the production-to-cost dichotomy. Still, Johnson's toughness was not lost on Wyatt or anyone close to the team:
Over the years, he’s made himself available every Sunday, and practiced regularly during the week. Say what you want about him, but you can’t knock his durability and competitiveness.
Johnson rushed for 1,077 yards on a career-low 3.9 yards per carry this past season, scoring just six touchdowns. After Tennessee spent its offseason investing heavily in offensive line talent to hopefully spur a second career year, Johnson instead turned in a season that left everyone frustrated.
While this all easily could have been chalked up to injury, Johnson said on Jan. 8 that it actually had more to do with the coaches being unwilling to use him enough, per Wyatt:
I feel like if they are not going to use me the way I am supposed to be used and let me be the horse, then I would rather them let me move on. Their money would be wasted on me. I feel like if they are not going to use me right, let somebody get me that’s going to use me the right way.
The Titans replaced the incumbent Mike Munchak with Ken Whisenhunt, so that may wind up changing things a bit. But as Johnson sits on the sidelines recovering for the next four to six weeks, it now looks less likely than ever that Tennessee will be willing to take that $10 million risk.
Follow Tyler Conway on Twitter: @tylerconway22