Words that come to mind when talking about Chris Johnson: fast, funny, cocky, skilled, fast.
Words that Bud Adams needs to add to that list: elite NFL running back.
And as an elite NFL running back, Johnson deserves a new contract. While Jeff Fisher thinks the Titans and Johnson can come to a reasonable agreement, that agreement should include a sizable raise for Johnson, and nearly no questions asked.
Shall I count the reasons why?
Reason 1: He’s deadly
In his second season, Johnson ran away with the NFL rushing title, beating the only professional football player in St. Louis, Steven Jackson, by nearly 600 total yards and almost 40 yards per game.
That’s like when Wilt Chamberlain averaged almost 19 more points per game than Walt Bellamy in the 1961-1962 NBA regular season.
I believe that’s called a pants-down spanking.
Reason 2: He’s legendary
He already beat future Hall Member Marshal Faulk’s single season yards from scrimmage record with 2,509, and was third behind only Eric Dickerson (HOFer) and Edgerrin James (All Pro) in most running yards in his first two seasons (3,234).
He ran over, under, and around (and every other preposition) NFL defenses, making him the first player ever to rush for three touchdowns of 85 yards or longer in a career.
Don’t tell me you wouldn’t pay Dickerson, Faulk, and James prime-time money at their peaks. And this guy is starting better than them?
Reason 3: He’s got leverage
Anyone can argue that the Titans can easily bench him, but Vince Young prays every night before bed that this doesn’t happen. Young will enter a real-life version of NFL Blitz, with defensive lineman rushing him at every chance like the buffet at the hotel was free.
And if you think undersized Javon Ringer, never used Alvin Pearman, or any rookies can fill CJ’s shoes, let’s get you an MRI.
But don’t get LenDale White back. Pete Carroll can have him and his sports bra.
Reason 4: He’s no chain reaction starter
Contrary to popular belief, he won’t cause a domino effect where more Titans ask for new contracts. Tennessee doesn’t set a precedent of being a team that renegotiates early if it only negotiates with record-shatterers.
To the people who think Kenny Britt could blow up? Talk to me once he makes an All Pro Team.
Or a Pro Bowl. Or an AFC Offensive Player of the Week. Or any award for that matter.
Reason 5: He’s your meal ticket
Johnson can be the face of the franchise for years to come, and their way into the playoffs. Without a playoff win and only two playoff appearances since 2003, management needs to reassure its fans that they are committed to winning, and benching your best skill player does this about as well as Heidi Pratt does plastic surgery.
Okay so maybe nothing is that bad.
Reason 6: He’s a chance at redemption
The Adams regime is not known for its loyalty to franchise faces. Steve McNair and Albert Haynesworth are some recent examples of key players who were let go and gave ownership their cheapskate reputation. While some people might say these players were due to leave or asked for more money, getting rid of team icons is a good way to alienate fans.
Actually, when Eddie George was let go, I felt more like Predator.
Reason 7: He’s so young
First round players get huge guaranteed money before they play a down, and it’s clear most skill players don’t live up to that kind of hype.
But when a 24-year-old becomes the first NFL player ever to rush for 2,000 yards with 500 receiving yards in the same season, he’s surpassed expectations.
Reason 8: He’s too valuable to other teams
Every football (and possibly fútbol) team in the nation would sign or trade for Johnson, because there is no price tag on excellence. And with what teams have received for top caliber talent in trades recently (see the Brandon Marshall and Donovan McNabb deals), the Titans can get nothing close to equal value, setting them back another decade.
As hard as it is to say, Faulk is right: Johnson should hold out for as long as possible.
Wait for Ryan Leaf’s NFL return. Wait for Lil' Wayne to become an elementary school teacher. Wait for the Clippers’ championship parade. If the Titans won’t give him the $40 million guaranteed, they lose. Period.
And if Tennessee fans have to endure their last Super Bowl memory as Kevin Dyson one yard from the end zone for much longer, they might go insane.