Chris Johnson Must Realize He's No Longer a Featured Running Back

Sean ODonnellContributor IIIApril 13, 2014

Tennessee Titans running back Chris Johnson (28) runs against the San Diego Chargers in the first quarter of an NFL football game on Sunday, Sept. 22, 2013, in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Wade Payne)
Wade Payne

In an expected move, the Tennessee Titans released Chris Johnson this offseason. Johnson's diminishing skill set and hefty price tag were two things Tennessee no longer wanted to deal with.

After all, Johnson was always viewed as a home run threat, and when he averaged just 3.9 yards per carry in 2013, his $10 million 2014 cap hit suddenly became more of a liability than ever.

So, the Titans unloaded the six-year veteran after being unable to find a suitor in a trade.

With Johnson's contract expunged, teams should be flocking all over the former 2,000-yard rusher, right?

Not so fast.

On April 5, Pro Football Talk reported Johnson should be signing with a team by the middle of the week. Well, Saturday marks a week since that report and Johnson remains a free agent.

Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk gave some insight as to why Johnson may remain in limbo:

But with the man who drafted Johnson and coached him for three seasons (Rams coach Jeff Fisher) apparently not interested and the man who coached him for the most recent three seasons (Steelers offensive line coach Mike Munchak) apparently not pushing his new team to defer signing LeGarrette Blount until getting a crack at Johnson, the rest of the league could be heeding the message.

If the league's coaches most familiar with Johnson are hesitant to consider him, that doesn't bode well for the running back's future.

So, what needs to change?

Johnson isn't a featured back anymore. His declining effectiveness is clear just by looking at his career numbers:

Chris Johnson's NFL Career Stats

Johnson's continued to get a heavy workload year after year; however, he's simply not producing at his expected level.

The fact Johnson hasn't found a new team yet could signify his stubbornness to take on a more limited role.

Change-of-pace backs are a necessity in today's league. Combining a bruising runner with a speed back who can double as a receiver out of the backfield is common in a league that grows more pass happy with every season.

Of course, joining a team as a complementary running back comes with a significantly lower price tag. That's one major obstacle Johnson must overcome heading into 2014.

After all, there are plenty of running backs (see: Mason, Tre) available in this year's draft that could easily take up a spot on a roster Johnson could have already acquired.

The sooner Johnson realizes this is the best situation for him, the better. If he continues to hold off to find a team that will allow him to carry over 250 times this season, he could end up waiting longer than he'd like to expect.