Ex-Titans RB Chris Johnson Won't Let Sons Play RB Due to Pay Gap, Poor Treatment

Timothy Rapp@@TRappaRTFeatured ColumnistAugust 12, 2019

Arizona Cardinals running back Chris Johnson runs with the football during an NFL football training camp Thursday, Aug. 17, 2017, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)
Ross D. Franklin/Associated Press

Former NFL running back Chris Johnson told TMZ Sports that he won't let his twin sons play the same position as he did, saying he'll encourage them to play quarterback, wide receiver or cornerback. 

"I'm going to make sure I keep them away from running back."

Johnson said he doesn't regret playing the position after rushing for 9,651 yards and 55 touchdowns in his career, famously hitting 2,006 rushing yards in the 2009 season. But given the NFL's trend toward devaluing the running back position, Johnson says he would pick a different position if he could start his career over.

"If I could do it all over again, when that coach came to me and told me, 'You should switch your position to receiver or cornerback,' I would have did it," he said.

The 33-year-old Johnson made $45.6 million during his NFL career, per Spotrac, a number he feels he would have easily eclipsed had he played a different position. 

"I really believe in my head, if I played receiver or cornerback, I would still be playing in the league to this day and still making $15, $16 million a year at those positions," he told TMZ.

Johnson makes a point. The top NFL running back in terms of average salary is Todd Gurley ($14.3 million), according to Spotrac. That ranks him 64th in the NFL. Only three running backs (Gurley, Le'Veon Bell and David Johnson) crack the top 200. 

Another way of looking at it is that NFL teams spend, on average, $8.8 million on the running back position, per Spotrac, generally splitting that up among three to four players. NFL teams spend more on average on the tight end position ($9.1 million) in the modern NFL, and only set aside less money for kickers, punters and long snappers ($5.3 million). 

So running backs have less earning potential and a shorter shelf life than other positions, with NFL teams moving toward committee approaches and generally shying away from players over the age of 30 at running back. So when Johnson says he'll encourage his sons to play quarterback, wide receiver or cornerback, it's hard to argue with his logic.