Titans, Johnson working on compromise

Tennessee Titans running back Chris Johnson sets an NFL record for yards from scrimmage in a single season with 2,509 on this four yard run against the Seattle Seahawks in the fourth quarter At Qwest Field in Seattle on January 3, 2010. Johnson rushed for 134 yards on 36 carries and scored two touchdown in the Titans 17-13 win over the Seahawks. (UPI /Jim Bryant) Photo via Newscom

According to the Nashville Tennessean, the Titans and the player rep for Chris Johnson are working on a contract compromise that would ensure that the star back will report to training camp on time.

Under the terms of the five-year, $12 million contract he signed prior to his rookie season, Johnson has reached escalators in the deal that could pay him up to an additional $2.5 million in salary in 2012. The Titans could turn that money into a signing bonus in 2010, and combine it with his scheduled base salary of $550,000 for this fall.

Players earn escalators by reaching individual and team goals as part of a contract, and, unlike incentives that are paid out at the end of a season, they’re attached to future salaries. While such a move wouldn’t provide a big pay raise like Johnson wants, it would get him some additional funds now, with the hope of getting a long-term deal after next season.

The Titans have already paid Johnson roughly $7 million in guarantees over his first two seasons. He’s scheduled to make base salaries of $800,000 in 2011 and $960,000 in 2012. The Titans have cited the 30 percent rule, a byproduct of the league’s labor issues, as a reason why a lucrative long-term deal isn’t do-able at this time. It restricts big increases in Johnson’s salary from year to year, since they’d have to pay him guaranteed signing bonus in the $40 million range as part of a market rate extension.

Reaching a contract compromise has seemed like the most logical solution from the start. The Titans can’t give Johnson the long-term deal that he covets because of the “30 percent” rule, but considering he’s far and away their best player and highly underpaid, the team needs to do something.

A modest raise in the form of a bonus makes sense now, and then the two sides can come together after the season and work on a long-term extension. This would ensure that Johnson reports to camp on time and that the Titans have their most productive player ready to go for the regular season.

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