Updates from Wednesday, April 16
Chris Johnson has made his decision on where he'll play in 2014 according to ESPN's Adam Schefter:
Former Titans RB Chris Johnson reached agreement with Jets on a two-year deal, per league sources.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) April 16, 2014
Updates from Tuesday, April 15
ESPN's Adam Schefter has the latest on Chris Johnson's free-agency hunt:
Former Titans RB Chris Johnson is visiting the Jets right now, per team sources who spotted him in the teams' training facility.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) April 15, 2014
The Daily News has learned that the Jets remain one of the few serious suitors for free-agent running back Chris Johnson one week after the three-time Pro Bowler officially hit the open market.
Although much of the initial buzz surrounding Johnson has quieted in recent days, the Jets are among a few teams in talks with him.
Mehta later added more details about Johnson's visit:
Chris Johnson, who underwent arthroscopic knee surgery (meniscus) in offseason, is taking a physical with Jets today as part of visit #nyj— Manish Mehta (@MMehtaNYDN) April 15, 2014
Jets envision a true backfield tandem with Chris Ivory & Chris Johnson. Two different styles. Will diversify offense. #nyj— Manish Mehta (@MMehtaNYDN) April 15, 2014
Mehta provided another update once Johnson left the Jets' facility:
Chris Johnson's visit with the Jets today: Productive. Good vibes all around, I'm told. #nyj— Manish Mehta (@MMehtaNYDN) April 15, 2014
Jets are sticking to budget/value system. They want Chris Johnson, but will not "overpay." Depressed RB market suggests $3-$4M/yr max #nyj— Manish Mehta (@MMehtaNYDN) April 15, 2014
ESPN's Josina Anderson reports that Johnson made an appearance on the jumbotron at the Barclays Center Tuesday night:
Wait a minute they just showed Chris Johnson on the jumbotron at the Barclays. Fresh off his Jets visit today. Crowd cheered.— Josina Anderson (@JosinaAnderson) April 16, 2014
New York Daily News reporter Peter Botte has more on Johnson's visit with the Jets:
Johnson on Jets: "Everything went well, it' a fine city,"but "not ready to make my decision." Said "of course" when asked if NYJ attractive.— Peter Botte (@PeterBotte) April 16, 2014
Updates from Thursday, April 10
Bleacher Report's Dan Pompei reports why Johnson has yet to sign with a new team after being released from the Tennessee Titans last week:
There has not been the same kind of rush to sign Chris Johnson as there was to sign DeSean Jackson, in part because there is a divide over what Johnson thinks his market value is and what some teams think it is. One source said that also may have been a factor in the Titans' inability to deal Johnson, as they could not find a trade partner willing to redo his deal at a level that would have appeased him.
Updates from Wednesday, April 9
Mehta says Johnson is in New York, but he has not scheduled a visit with the Jets:
Updates from Tuesday, April 8
Mehta adds insight into why the Jets would be interested in signing him:
Jets really like a potential Chris Ivory-Chris Johnson backfield tandem. Not concerned about work ethic. Will come down to $$$ #nyj— Manish Mehta (@MMehtaNYDN) April 7, 2014
Updates from Saturday, April 5
Ian Rapoport of NFL.com provided a bit of insight into Johnson's impending free agency:
Note: Chris Johnson wasn’t on the @NFL’s transaction wire yesterday. Release should be official Monday at 4. Until then, no talks with teams— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) April 5, 2014
Chris Johnson has hit the open market.
The Tennessee Titans officially announced they released the 28-year-old on Friday:
The #Titans informed RB Chris Johnson that he will be released today.— Tennessee Titans (@TennesseeTitans) April 4, 2014
This comes as no surprise, as rumors have been flying for the past month that Johnson was deemed expendable by the Titans. Part of it is the fact that he's a running back nearing 30 years old, but it was mostly a cost-cutting move.
Jim Wyatt of The Tennessean pointed out that Tennessee will save $6 million in cap space by releasing him now:
The #Titans save $6 million in salary cap room by releasing Johnson. He’ll count $4 million against the cap in 2014— Jim Wyatt (@jwyattsports) April 4, 2014
According to Pro Football Talk, the running back could be with a new team very soon:
Look for Chris Johnson to have a new team by the middle of next week http://t.co/y2ZkfyyWZV— ProFootballTalk (@ProFootballTalk) April 5, 2014
At the time, the Titans inking Johnson to a four-year, $53 million extension back in 2011 seemed to be a fairly smart move. He rushed for 2,006 yards in 2009 and was entering his prime years. However, over time, Johnson's contract became an albatross and a stick with which to beat the underperforming star.
NFL.com's Ian Rapoport reported that Tennessee wanted to try and trade Johnson, but no team would take on his unwieldy contract. The New York Jets were closest to pulling the trigger:
ESPN's Adam Schefter reported that along with New York, the Buffalo Bills, Miami Dolphins and Atlanta Falcons all registered some interest in a possible trade:
Four teams that discussed a potential trade for RB Chris Johnson, but ultimately declined to do so, were the Jets, Bills, Dolphins, Falcons.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) April 4, 2014
Now that Johnson is on the open market, a team will be able to ink him to a contract much more in line with his production over the last few years and potential value. CBSSports.com's Jason La Canfora hypothesized that nobody's going to break the bank in their attempt to sign him:
When Chris Johnson does sign his next deal, expect it to be much more of a value-play for the team. $ will be modest— Jason La Canfora (@JasonLaCanfora) April 4, 2014
That makes him a much more attractive option in the backfield. Combining that with the fact that he's run for more than 1,000 yards in each of the last six seasons, it's clear Johnson won't be spending much time unemployed.
Of all the teams involved, the Jets appear to be in the best position to sign him.
Neither Chris Ivory nor Bilal Powell emerged as a viable No. 1 option, and a runner of Johnson's ability could help to take some of the pressure off Geno Smith. The Jets also have a ton of cap space, so the chances of them being outbid are slim.
Darren Woodson approved of the potential Johnson-to-New York move on NFL Live, per NFL on ESPN:
"I think the Jets make a lot of sense for Chris Johnson" - Darren Woodson on NFL LIVE pic.twitter.com/APbJNWW7HL— NFL on ESPN (@ESPNNFL) April 4, 2014
One team you can eliminate from the Chris Johnson sweepstakes is the Dallas Cowboys. Clarence Hill of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reported that they don't have any interest in signing the veteran running back:
Per Cowboys sources, there is no interest in Chris Johnson...So pump your brakes— Clarence Hill (@clarencehilljr) April 4, 2014
Dallas' potential interest in Johnson went all the way back to when he was drafted in 2008:
The presence of DeMarco Murray in the backfield coupled with the fact that the Cowboys aren't exactly flush with cap space in the long term always made this move seem like a long shot. However, Jerry Jones is nothing if not unpredictable.
Pro Football Talk's Mike Florio also reported that the Falcons weren't seriously considering adding Johnson this offseason:
Per a source with knowledge of the situation, the Falcons have no interest in the current (for now) Titans tailback.
Jim Wyatt of the Tennessean recently suggested the Falcons as a potential landing spot for Johnson, a first-round pick in 2008. But while it’s likely Johnson will find a new home if/when (when) he’s released, that new home won’t be in Atlanta.
All signs seem to point to the Big Apple for Johnson.
While CJ2K will never again approach the heights of that '09 season, he's no doubt a valuable player in the right circumstances.
If the Jets use him as more of a home run threat rather than a move-the-chains grinder, he should easily eclipse 1,000 yards again, and New York's offense would take a major step forward in 2014.