Tennessee Titans: Chris Johnson's Holdout Likely to Last into the NFL Season
A holdout in the NFL is essentially a debate, a battle of wills, a struggle between two sides who simply disagree. It's generally simple so much so that one side is in the wrong.
Players often overvalue themselves while franchises often undervalue their players.
Successfully resolved holdouts tend to only end in one of three ways. A negotiation is made that suits both sides, the player is traded or released to seek another team or one side admits to being the wrong party.
This is what makes the Chris Johnson holdout so intriguing to me and likely frustrating to Titans fans.
From my point of view, there is no way Johnson suits up for the Titans on opening day. He has too much to lose by returning to the team to play under his current contract. I also don't think the Tennessee Titan should give in to his demands or even enter negotiations because of his high demands.
The Titans are willing to make Johnson the highest paid running back, which is fair considering in my mind he's the second best behind Adrian Peterson. Should Peterson return to his fumbling ways, then Johnson is the best. Those two are so far ahead of the other backs in the league that they are worth being the highest paid at their position.
The highest paid at their position, but not the highest paid among offensive playmakers.
The running back position is not what it once was in the NFL. Each team in the league seems to have multiple accomplished players at the position that can effectively play without being paid much more than the minimum.
The fact that Jerome Harrison was still available to sign for the Detroit Lions after Mikel Leshoure went down and Tiki Barber's return to the NFL has never come to fruition shows how deep the running back talent in the NFL is.
The New Orleans Saints last season used five running backs to good effect after picking up Julius Jones and Ladell Betts during the season. Betts and Jones aren't stars like Johnson but Jones averaged four yards per carry and Betts had two touchdowns in 45 carries.
The point is, the Titans do not really need to pay Johnson.
There is no doubt that he is the best player on that offense. He has been the star in Tennessee ever since he was made the feature back with the release of Lendale White. However the Titans can still have a strong running game without him.
In house, Javon Ringer is simply looking for a chance to show off his talent. Ringer has a career average of 4.9 yards per carry and is only 24 years of age.
They could also look to do what the Tampa Bay Buccaneers did last year and pick up a player on waivers. The Buccaneers picked up LeGarrette Blount last year at the final cut deadline for teams—coincidentally he was cut from the Titans—before turning him into an abrasive star who is now the team's feature back.
While the Titans don't need Johnson, Johnson does need a better contract.
He is scheduled to make $800,000 for the coming season in his base salary. For the position that Johnson plays it is no surprise that the average lifespan of a running back in the NFL is the shortest of any position in the league.
Running backs take more punishment than any other players in the league and Johnson is not built to take that punishment for too long. Johnson is entering the fourth year of a career that has already eclipsed the 2.57 year average length.
Johnson has over 1,000 career touches already. It's no guarantee that he can even accrue another 1,000 yards so why would he return to the team when he knows he will be the focal point of the offense once again.
His holdout has already cost him a year towards free agency on his current deal. While his demands of a $13 million average per season are ludicrous, he is obviously determined to stick to them.
The reason I believe Johnson will be willing to stick to those high demands is because the likelihood is there are probably other teams around the league that would offer him close to that number.
Chris Johnson's chances of having a career-ending injury are much higher than most players on any given Sunday. The Tennessee Titans' chances of having a competent franchise are much lower if they give into the running back's demands.
The two sides are too far away to come to any negotiation in the near future. The fact that negotiations won't likely happen until Johnson shows up says that they won't be starting any time soon.
At this point, it seems more likely—and possibly more logical for both sides—for the Tennessee Titans to consider trading Chris Johnson.
The likelihood is that they have gotten the best years out of him already. Why not get the best value for him also?
I don't expect to see Chris Johnson in the preseason, I'd be shocked to see him in Jacksonville on September 11th.
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