Titans RB Chris Johnson Guaranteed to Be Fantasy Football Stud, Steal in 2011

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Titans RB Chris Johnson Guaranteed to Be Fantasy Football Stud, Steal in 2011
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An unhappy Chris Johnson and Tennessee Titans officials met Wednesday in hopes of ending the running back's near-month holdout, but the talks ended without the two sides agreeing a new deal. Thus, the holdout drags on for both sides.

Here's the Titans statement regarding the meeting:

“We had a meeting today with myself, Vin Marino (Titans VP Football Administration), Chris Johnson and Joel Segal. It was important for us to have a face-to-face meeting so that everyone could have a voice and understand the perspective of the other side. I’m not sure there was any progress made, but I do think it was beneficial to meet. We were able to discuss several different elements of a potential contract, but there was no agreement on those topics. I do expect to have another conversation with Joel in the next day or so to discuss things further.”

For some fantasy football owners, dread is already starting to creep in. The two sides seem far apart on a myriad of issues, which could mean Johnson's holdout extends into the regular season. His average draft position, which once held steady near No. 1, has fallen in light of his hold out. 

It's easy to understand that risk. If Johnson is going to miss games at the start of the season, it doesn't make sense to take him over players like Adrian Peterson, Ray Rice or Jamaal Charles. Those are safer bets right now. 

But I think there's one big kicker in this whole deal: The Titans and Johnson are going to come to an agreement before the season.

Think back to how much negativity surrounded the NFL during the lockout and CBA hearings. There were plenty of people who said that we'd be missing football this season. We all know how that turned out.

The two sides took the disagreement to the deadline, then compromised on the issues and came to a conclusion. Just one preseason game—which constitutes a fifth exhibition contest for those teams—was missed. The NFL moved on like nothing happened.

That's what I'd expect from this situation.

Johnson wants to get paid, and rightfully so. He's one of the more dynamic players in the league and the most important offensive player on the Titans roster. Plus, with the shelf life of NFL running backs shrinking every year, Johnson needs to see a big paycheck while he's still in his prime. It's just smart business.

Now, the Titans are ready to grant those wishes. They have stated publicly that they're willing to make Johnson the highest paid running back in NFL history. For Johnson, it's a question of, "By how much?"

That's the hold up right now. He wants Larry Fitzgerald money. The Cardinals paid him well outside the realm of the current highest paid receivers, and Johnson wants that same benefit at the running back position.

Remember, contracts at that position have been frozen for years. DeAngelo Williams' contract is about identical to the one LaDainian Tomlinson signed in 2004. That's seven years of stagnation.

Johnson wants to change that.

And if all goes to plan, he will. When push comes to shove, the Titans will wind up giving him $24-27 million in guarantees and a $12-13 million base average salary. It's a small compromise on Johnson's part but likely enough for the Titans to get the deal done. They'll push it to the deadline, but I'd guess something gets done in the next two weeks. He'll be back in time for the Titans opener against Jacksonville.  

Once the deal is done, Johnson will reclaim his spot near the top of fantasy football. Those who passed on him during their drafts in mid-August will regret that decision.

Johnson, a guy who has slipped out of the first round in some drafts, will return to the field as a major steal. Barring any hamstring injury—the biggest risk after a long holdout—Johnson will rush for 1,300-plus yards and 10 or so touchdowns. Maybe he won't be a 2,000-yard rusher, but Johnson will once again put together terrific fantasy numbers.

And while I understand the fear in taking Johnson, don't let that cloud your judgement on draft day. Trust that these two sides will get a deal done.

You won't regret it when Johnson tears up fantasy football for the third straight year this season, only as a much, much richer man.   

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