The Tennessee Titans Need To Trade Chris Johnson

Gerald BallCorrespondent IMay 26, 2010

FORT LAUDERDALE, FL - FEBRUARY 03:  Chris Johnson #28 of the Tennessee Titans speaks to members of the media after being named the FedEx Ground NFL Player of the Year at a press conference held at the Fort Lauderdale Convention Center as part of media week for Super Bowl XLIV on February 3, 2010 in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.  (Photo by Doug Benc/Getty Images)
Doug Benc/Getty Images

The Titans need to trade Chris Johnson.

Evidence is mounting that the guy is a knucklehead. Not a serious problem, like Terrell Owens, the late Chris Henry of the Bengals, Adam Jones, Corey Dillon, or Brandon Marshall.

However, perhaps Johnson is more like Albert Haynesworth. Haynesworth doesn't cause enough trouble to be a major distraction. He doesn't blow up a locker room, or get a coach fired. But he still has enough issues going on to be harmful, to cause unnecessary trouble that the team doesn't need. That type of attitude is rarely present on championship franchises like the Colts and Patriots.

The Titans are rebuilding. They have a lot of young players and no strong leaders. Tennessee just can't afford a guy who, since he has gotten to Nashville, has done nothing but draw attention to himself.

From working out on his own in Florida during the off-season, instead of joining the team, to making it clear that he had no interest in the "Thunder and Lightning" thing with LenDale White (not that I was a White fan) because he wanted to be the guy, to the nonsense with challenging Usain Bolt. And now he's demanding to be the highest paid offensive player in the NFL.

We are talking about a guy who has no interest in the team concept, or how the NFL works. Running backs are paid less than quarterbacks, wide receivers, left tackles, and even cornerbacks. And no one, especially not first round draft picks, gets a new contract after their second season.

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YES, Johnson only gets $550,000 this year, less than longtime reserve Alvin Pearman. But that's only because rookie contracts are structured in a way to give them MORE MONEY under the salary cap.

For Johnson to get more money this year, he would have to get less money over the life of his contract. This would have also increased the risk for Johnson had he gotten injured, like Ki-Jana Carter and Tshimonga Biakabatuka, or not panned out, like Blair Thomas, Tommy Vardell and Curtis Enis.

Johnson either doesn't know about the business of the NFL, or doesn't care. He doesn't think normal league business procedures should apply to him.

Not to mention Johnson's delusions of grandeur. He puts up good numbers in large part because he benefits from the best run-blocking o-line in the NFL, instead of the sieves that Darren McFadden and Clinton Portis are stuck with in Oakland and Washington. And Johnson plays in a division that emphasizes defending the pass (because of Peyton Manning) as opposed to the run.

Also, the evidence that Johnson is a difference-maker is lacking. The Titans made the playoffs in 2008? Fine. But they made it in 2007 against a tougher schedule. Johnson's presence didn't equate to a playoff victory against Baltimore.

And other than that huge game against Houston, where was Johnson during the 0-6 start? Yes, it is VERY RELEVANT that Johnson took off after Vince Young was inserted into the lineup.

But even after the team went 8-2 after the bye week, where was Johnson when the team needed him most, in the losses to San Diego and Indianapolis? He didn't put the team on his back in either contest, like Eddie George used to (when Georgie was healthy that is).

It's puzzling. Of the 3 playoff teams that Johnson played against during the 8-2 stretch, his best game was against Arizona, when Vince Young threw for 387 yards.

Otherwise, Johnson was incapable of being the difference maker against good teams when Young and Collins weren't playing well. Just like he didn't impact that playoff game against Baltimore last year.

So why does he deserve to be the highest paid player in the NFL again?

And doesn't this guy know that other running backs have rushed for 2,000 yards without getting extra money? Terrell Davis did it for a Broncos team that won the Super Bowl. Jamal Lewis did it for a Ravens team that, unlike the Titans last year, actually made the playoffs (with Kyle Boller and Anthony Wright at QB).

Again, Johnson either doesn't know that or doesn't care. Either way, he's a knucklehead.

Look, the Titans simply can't pay Chris Johnson more than Matt Schaub, let alone a Peyton Manning, Tom Brady or Drew Brees, as he is demanding.

Not only is he forgetting the salary structure of the NFL, but Manning, Brady, Brees and even Schaub (who threw for nearly 5000 yards last year) have been performing at a high level in the NFL a lot longer.

So when the Titans don't make Johnson the highest paid offensive player in his division, let alone the NFL, will Johnson continue his holdout?

Plus, based on Johnson's behavior since coming to Nashville, even if they make Johnson the highest paid TAILBACK in the NFL, it will only buy time until he finds an excuse to cause the next distraction for a franchise that doesn't need them.

We see that Johnson has the support of his teammates, and is being egged on by guys who were distractions in their own right in Marshall Faulk (who complained his way out of Indianapolis) and Warren Sapp (self-explanatory). The Titans really don't need this.

I am not saying that Johnson should be a leader or the face of the franchise. But the Titans, who haven't won a playoff game since 2003, need more guys who either know how to win in the NFL or are willing to learn. Again, more guys like the Patriots and Colts have. Not fewer.

The Titans finally had to let guys like Albert Haynesworth and LenDale White walk because, despite their productivity and potential, they weren't the types of guys that you need on a championship roster.

I must admit, tailback is my favorite position in football. And I enjoyed the game a lot more in the 1980s and early 1990s, when the game was centered a lot more around guys like Tony Dorsett, John Riggins, Eric Dickerson and Emmitt Smith.

However, finding a very good tailback isn't hard. Just don't draft guys with huge question marks that cause other teams to pass them up, like the Titans did with Chris Brown, LenDale White and Chris Henry.

The Titans can replace Johnson by drafting a Mark Ingram, or by signing the next Michael Turner in free agency.

As for who Johnson should be traded for, that is relatively easy. A veteran (but relatively young) productive wide receiver.

It's much harder to find a productive wide receiver than an running back. Plus, wide receivers generally take longer to develop. Tennessee, in particular, has had real problems finding good wide receivers for years.

They've failed both in the draft (Tyrone Calico, Andre Dyson, and a whole bunch of busts in the 3rd round) and in free agency (Carl Pickens, Yancy Thigpen, David Givens, with Nate Washington very close to joining that list).

Amazingly, Derrick Mason is the only Pro Bowl WR that Tennessee has had since abandoning the run-and-shoot in the late 1980s. And their not having much at TE (Bo Scaife, 8 TD catches in 5 years, and oh yes he can't block either!) makes the need for a playmaking, consistent young wide receiver even more pronounced.

A Chris Johnson for DeSean Jackson trade would be outstanding. So would a Chris Johnson for Marques Colston deal.

Regardless of how this contract dispute works out, the Titans should have seen enough. Use Johnson to get another wide receiver to play across from Kenny Britt (and whatever else they can get for him) and move on.


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