One man's trash is another man's treasure, or in this case, the Tennessee Titans' overpaid, underwhelming running back would be somebody else's correctly compensated running back with a point to prove.
Chris Johnson's agent, Joel Segal, revealed on SiriusXM NFL Radio that his client is likely to be leaving Tennessee very soon, per SportsCenter:
NFL.com's Ian Rapoport reported that Johnson could be out as early as the end of the week:
Should Johnson hit free agency, the New York Jets might act quickly, per CBSSports.com's Jason La Canfora:
Still expecting Chris Johnson's release to come this week. When it does, look for the Jets to pounce on the RB. Would be a strong fit— Jason La Canfora (@JasonLaCanfora) April 2, 2014
It's hard to label Tennessee's possible move as a surprise, since the day the Titans signed CJ2K to that four-year, $53.5 million extension it always seemed a questionable move. Running backs have notoriously short life spans in the NFL, so shelling out that much money for somebody who'd carried the ball 674 times over the previous two seasons seemed a bit illogical.
Jim Wyatt of The Tennessean wrote how Johnson's contract makes him expendable for the Titans:
Plenty has changed. Those deals seem crazy now. When you see what running backs are making these days, it's no wonder the Titans are ready to dump Johnson.
Part of it is simply because they want to go in a different direction under a new coach and no longer rely on Johnson to be their primary offensive player. But this expected divorce is about money. Johnson's contract calls for him to make $8 million in 2014, a year after he made $10 million.
If you add up the guaranteed money of the top free agent backs signed this offseason, the total is not even close to what Johnson got in 2011. Granted, none of the free agents this offseason has come close to matching Johnson's productivity, but running backs are now being paid like kickers and punters.
The thing is, once Tennessee offloads Johnson, he's almost certainly going to get a deal that's much closer to market value. No team will break the bank for a 28-year-old running with as much wear and tear as the former 2,000-yard rusher.
That means one of the biggest complaints about Johnson—his contract—would no longer be valid. Imagine the perception of him if he was making even half of what his current deal is.
If anything, the problems that he's had in Tennessee over the last couple of years might drive his price down to such a point that whatever team does sign him is getting a major bargain. The market may overcorrect itself.
Despite being in the twilight of his professional career, Johnson would be the best running back to swap teams this offseason. He's run for over 1,000 yards in each of his six years in the league.
Let's not downplay that. That's the kind of consistency teams are killing for at the running back position.
You also have to consider how well Johnson played despite the likes of Jake Locker, Ryan Fitzpatrick and Matt Hasselbeck playing under center in Tennessee. Opposing defenses knew that the Titans passing game wasn't much of a threat, so they keyed on Johnson and the running game.
If he can head to a team with a more established aerial attack, that will open up rushing lanes he forgot even existed.
In each of those three scenarios, Johnson wouldn't have to be an every-down back used to move the chains.
Instead, he'd be given a role much more catered to his home-run ability.
Whatever teams signs Johnson in the event he's cut by the Titans will be getting a player who's motivated to silence his critics and stick it to the team that released him.
Johnson will never reach the heights of CJ2K again, but that doesn't preclude him from offering a lot of utility to a new team going forward.