Over the last three seasons, perennial Pro Bowler Chris Johnson has been the lone bright spot in a franchise struggling for a superstar.
Johnson's refusal to come to training camp on time, combined with his persistence on being the top-paid back in the league, could force the Tennessee Titans into trading the fastest man in the league.
Ahead are 10 reasons why the Titans might just do the unthinkable.
Barry Sanders led his Detroit squad to the playoffs five times over 10 seasons, only once winning a playoff game.
In 1991 Sanders had 1,855 all-purpose yards, 17 touchdowns, the team finished 12-4 and then lost to the Washington Redskins in the NFC Championship game.
Over Johnson’s three-year career in Tennessee, the All-Pro back has rushed for more than 4,000 yards and made the playoffs once (his rookie season).
The Titans went 13-3 before being ousted in the AFC divisional round by the Baltimore Ravens.
Johnson still has plenty of his career left to play, but the Titans are in rebuilding mode with a potential franchise quarterback not yet ready to take over and their third defensive coordinator in three years.
Showing Johnson some loyalty and moving him while he’s still young could be an option.
When you think of the Tennessee franchise, speed backs don’t generally come to mind.
The blistering Eddie George and Earl Campbell come to mind—power backs with no regard for linebackers and defensive tackles that attempted to impede their progress.
Johnson is a physical back for his smaller 5’11”, 195-pound frame but is a horizontal runner. CJ2K has the ability to run in between the tackles, but tends to stick to running around the end, due to his abilities in the open field.
What is in common between these eight teams?
These are the last eight NFL champions. They also didn’t have a franchise running back, but instead a franchise quarterback.
Rodgers, Brees, Roethlisberger, E. Manning, Manning, Roethlisberger, Brady, Brady.
Chris Johnson will continue to rack up yards as one of the most dynamic backs in the league, but can he lead this Tennessee team to the promised land?
CJ2K’s value is at an all-time high. He has two years left on his rookie contract, this season making a base salary of $850,000.
If the Titans decided to move Johnson, any welcoming team wouldn’t be taking much of a cap hit at all. Considering his level of talent, some sort of player/draft-pick combo would be warranted for the trade by Tennessee.
Assuming he is healthy and can pass a physical, at least one second-round pick and a potential impact player could be involved.
Currently the Titans have three other young backs ready to take the reigns if they decided to move CJ.
Stafon Johnson, Jamie Harper and Javon Ringer all fit the mold of what Tennessee has always looked for in a back.
All three are power backs who can rumble between the tackles but also beat linebackers to the edge with their quickness.
S. Johnson and Harper have yet to take the field in a regular-season game, but Ringer showed impressive ability to pick up yards last season, with almost five yards per carry on 51 attempts.
"The Hoody" knows how to build contenders
The Titans have entered full rebuilding mode this season.
Most of their free agent pickups were signed to one-year deals. Why not take after one of the dynasty franchises in this league—the New England Patriots—in stocking up on draft picks by sending an elite player to a team willing to break the bank for him.
Some think the Titans could get a No. 1 pick for the All-Pro back. Honestly it would take some serious bargaining from Tennessee to get that. The most likely scenario is at best a second-round pick and some combination of later picks.
Jennings gives the Jags a change of pace
When you look at some of the better teams in the league, most of them have an established back to take most of the carries but a committee of backs to help spread the load.
Why did Chris Johnson run so well in 2008? LenDale White only had 200 attempts, 100 fewer than 2007, but scored on 15 runs. Johnson rushed for 1,228 yards on 251 attempts with nine touchdowns. Over the last two seasons, Johnson has scored 14 and 11, respectively. Those numbers aren’t huge upgrades from a combined 24 touchdowns between the two-back system in 2008.
Looking around the league, the Saints had a committee backfield, ending up with Reggie Bush looking for work elsewhere because the team was content with having Pierre Thomas, Mark Ingram, and Darren Sproles shoulder the load.
That is why LaDainian Tomlinson is in New York; the Chargers were content with multiple running backs, as well. Another situation is Jacksonville Jaguars, where they realized having Rashad Jennings and Maurice Jones-Drew is better than just MJD taking all the carries.
We’ve seen what happens all too often with aging running backs trying to stay in the league too long.
Edgerrin James is another name that comes to mind who played a solid seven seasons in Indianapolis before spending three seasons in Arizona, then racking up a combined 125 yards in 2009 as a member of the Seahawks.
Even within the Titans organization, Eddie George had similar problems toward the twilight of his career. The bruising back only averaged 3.3 yards per carry in his last year with Tennessee before being released.
The list goes on, but point blank, the Titans shouldn’t lock Johnson up for more than four or five years due to his durability issues.
Titans Head Coach Mike Munchak
This is second season Chris Johnson held out of camp awaiting a new contract.
I completely understand CJ’s reasoning and won’t question his dedication to the team until he comes into camp out of shape, which I don’t expect to happen.
Eventually head coach Mike Munchak has to show the team who is boss. CJ hasn’t showed up for two seasons straight and your star cornerback just straight bolted out of camp.
Munchak has to drop the hammer, and what better way than trading the “untouchable star” on your team?
When the Titans have needed a big play, whom do they look for? Whoever it is, it’s not CJ.
In 2008, Johnson had a chance to show his skills on a national stage against the Baltimore Ravens in the divisional round of the AFC playoffs. Johnson was injured in the game and had to leave early in the first half with his ankle wrapped. The rookie managed 72 yards on 11 carries and one touchdown before heading for the locker rooms early.
His second chance to come up big was in 2009 against the Seattle Seahawks with a chance to break the NFL single-season rushing record on the line. Johnson rushed for 134 yards on 36 carries, when he needed 99 more yards to break the record. Poor performances against the Jets (97 yards) and the Steelers (57 yards) halted his progress for perfection in the end, but his opportunities were there in the Seattle game.
Last season, with the team falling apart, the Titans needed to lean on Johnson’s rushing abilities. Johnson rushed for fewer than 100 yards in eight games against eight separate teams, including a measly five yards on seven carries against the Houston Texans.
If Johnson is going to demand the big money, he needs to play like a big-time guy.
Is it time to say goodbye to CJ2K?
Hopefully this isn't the end for Chris Johnson in the Music City, but if it is we can say we've enjoyed his time in Nashville.
What are your thoughts?
Thanks for reading and comment below.