Titans ready to make Chris Johnson highest paid back in NFL?

Tennessee Titans running back Chris Johnson (28) breaks past Indianapolis Colts linebacker Gary Brackett (58) for a 15-yard touchdown in the third quarter of the Colts 23-20 win at Lucas Oil Field in Indianapolis on January 2, 2011. UPI /Mark Cowan

Titans general manager Mike Reinfeldt said Thursday that he’s ready to make Chris Johnson the highest-paid running back in the NFL.

From the New York Times:

General manager Mike Reinfeldt told The Associated Press on Thursday that Johnson’s agent was the first person they called once the NFL’s lockout was lifted. The Titans reworked Johnson’s contract a year ago to give him more money in 2010 and promised to talk to him again a year later.

Reinfeldt says they already have talked about the perimeters of this new deal for Johnson and would like to have the running back in camp to learn the offense with a new coach while negotiations are finished.

This has always been a no-brainer in my eyes. Johnson has been one of the most productive running backs in the NFL the past couple of years and arguably deserves to be the highest paid RB in the league.

It’s not like this is a risky proposition for the Titans, or at least not in the way signing a player coming off an injury or a down year would be. Johnson is only 25 and barring injury, he presumably has four or five productive years left in him. If the Titans make him the highest-paid running back now and lock him in for five years, then everyone (i.e. the player, the team and the fan base) should be happy.

Of course, there are always unforeseen issues that arise. Maybe Johnson will be upset in three years because another running back has surpassed him in terms of their contract status. Maybe he’ll get paid and shut it down like Randy Moss did when he got to Oakland. Who knows? We can only go off the information presently at hand and the information presently at hand suggests to pay the man what he’s worth and reap the benefits of having him locked up for the next X amount of years.

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Quick Hits: Bill Belichick only pays half price for his talent

Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Chad Ochocinco gestures to a teammate from the sidelines during the second half of the Bengals’ NFL football game against the Baltimore Ravens in Baltimore, Maryland October 11, 2009. REUTERS/Joe Giza (UNITED STATES SPORT FOOTBALL)

In Friday’s Quick-Hits, I discuss the one big difference between the Redskins and Patriots (besides you know, that whole winning thing), Chris Johnson’s second holdout in as many years, the narrowing race to sign Nnamdi Asomugha, and the reuniting of Roy Williams and Mike Martz. Plus Vince Young, the Bucs and more.

– In the wake of the Patriots acquiring Chad Ochocinco from the Bengals, MMA Blitz writer and fellow TSR contributor Drew Ellis texted me this last night: “Is it just me or are the Patriots turning into the Redskins?” I get his point. The Patriots have never been worried about “name” talent; Bill Belichick just plugs players into his schemes and they win. But besides the obvious differences (like winning), the main reason the Patriots and Redskins are different is because Belichick never pays full price for anything. What did he give up to acquire Ochocinco and Albert Haynesworth the last two days? Two fifth round picks and a sixth-rounder? That’s nothing. That’s three special teamers or camp bodies in exchange for a receiver who absolutely loves Belichick and one of the best interior defensive linemen in the game when he’s motivated. On the flip side, the Redskins have paid out the ass for veteran talent and haven’t gotten anything to show for it. As I texted Drew, Belichick doesn’t take a dump in the morning without having a game plan. These moves will pan out – I guarantee it.

– I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: The Titans need to pony up and pay Chris Johnson, who will not report to camp on Friday says beat writer Jim Wyatt. Johnson has been one of the most productive backs in the NFL the past few seasons and he’s only 25. That means he has four or five more productive seasons left in him, so why Tennessee would dick around now is beyond me. They’re going to need this kid when Jake Locker is ready to take over the offense and is looking around for help. And seeing as how Kenny Britt probably won’t be around in another year or two, giving CJ a five-year deal makes a lot of sense.

– The race to sign Nnamdi Asomugha is apparently down to two teams according to NFL Network’s Michael Lombardi. Apparently some players in Dallas (with Tony Romo being one of them) are willing to restructure their deals in order to land the top corner on the market, while the Jets have made some moves in the past 24 hours to help clear cap space. (They released Mark Brunell and waived CB Will Billingsley and G Marlon Davis.) If it’s down to the Cowboys and Jets, I think New York walks away the winner. But I’m also the guy who predicted that he would land with the Bucs so…Dallas it is.

– The Bears have reunited Roy Williams with his former coordinator Mike Martz after signing the receiver to a two-year deal. It’s a nice fit given how productive Williams was under Martz in Detroit. It’s funny though, I have often wondered whether or not Williams could get any slower and the Bears have provided the answer. His speed should transfer real nice onto that dirt patch Chicago calls a field.

Tennessee Titans quarterback Vince Young (10) signs autographs for fans after a 24-10 victory over the Arizona Cardinals of an NFL pre-season game at LP Field in Nashville, Tennessee on August 23, 2010. (UPI Photo/Frederick Breedon IV)

Vince Young did the right thing signing a one-year deal with the Eagles. There was no market for him as a starter, so he might as well go to a place where the coaching staff is excellent and he can learn from a guy in Michael Vick (who obviously had to do some growing up himself). Besides, Vick always gets hurt once or twice a year so maybe if V.Y. turns in a solid preseason and fills in admirably for Vick, there will be a market for him next offseason.

– Let me get this straight: the Bucs want nothing to do with Nnamdi Asomugha but they hand free agent punter Michael Koenen $19.5 million, with $6.5 million guaranteed? Koenen is one of the best in the league but it’s a little befuddling why Tampa would pony up that much for a punter instead of at least kicking the tires on Asomugha (especially given Aqib Talib’s legal issues). My God, man.

– For the past two years I have wondered why the Saints were so willing to push Reggie Bush out the door. He said he was willing to take a paycut to stay in NOLA, so why not keep the versatile playmaker around as a role player? But the deal they just made for Darren Sproles was solid. The Saints have averaged more yards and points with Bush out of the lineup than with him in it, and they essentially just filled his role with a cheaper option in Sproles. Oh, and New Orleans also received a late-round pick and a 22-year-old special teams ace in Jonathon Amaya for Bush when they sent him to Miami. Nice work this offseason, Mickey Loomis.

– Here’s my off-the-cuff prediction of the day: Osi Umenyiora winds up in Atlanta after the Giants cut him.

Is it time for the Titans to pony up and pay Chris Johnson?

Tennessee Titans Chris Johnson watches from the sidelines during the first half of their NFL football game against the Jacksonville Jaguars in Jacksonville, Florida October 18, 2010. REUTERS/Daron Dean (UNITED STATES – Tags: SPORT FOOTBALL)

Contract holdouts used to irritate me in professional sports. An athlete and a team come together on a deal with the intentions of honoring said commitment. Then the athlete feels underpaid and holds his team hostage until he gets what he wants. Considering teams can’t ask for their money back when an athlete gives a Barry Zito-type performance year after year, the whole notion of a holdout didn’t sit right with me.

But that was a rather juvenile way of looking at the situation. In the NFL, teams can’t ask for money back but they can cut a player without honoring their commitment, so why shouldn’t athletes bargain for more money when they’ve outperformed their contract? At the end of the day, whether you’re a professional athlete or working out of a cubicle, you use the leverage you have to get as much as you can (within reason, of course) before that team or company decides it’s done with you.

Over the past week, there have been multiple reports that Chris Johnson will not report to training camp without a lucrative new contract. Set to earn just $800,000 this year despite being the NFL’s best back, it’s hard to blame Johnson for forcing the Titans into a corner. He still has two years left on his current deal, but it’s a deal in which he has outperformed.

There are a couple of reasons why the Titans shouldn’t give into Johnson’s demands (assuming he does holdout, that is), starting with the position he plays. Running backs just aren’t as valuable as they were 8-10 years ago. It’s a passing league now and if teams concentrate their efforts into building a decent O-line, they don’t have to break the bank for a top back. And considering the NFL is now a two-back league, committing a bunch of money to that position seems rather unproductive.

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Chris Johnson to holdout once lockout lifts?

Tennessee Titans running back Chris Johnson (28) breaks past Indianapolis Colts linebacker Gary Brackett (58) for a 15-yard touchdown in the third quarter of the Colts 23-20 win at Lucas Oil Field in Indianapolis on January 2, 2011. UPI /Mark Cowan

Jim Wyatt of the Nashville Tennessean does not expect Titans running back Chris Johnson to report to training camp without a new contract once the lockout is lifted.

Last year Johnson received what amounted to a $1.5 million raise. The Titans moved money he’d earned in escalators from 2012 to 2010, and added some incentives. When he finally reported for training camp, Johnson – who had $30 million guaranteed in mind — said it wouldn’t happen again. And I believe him.

Indications are Johnson’s not going to budge this time. I’ve heard it from too many sources to think otherwise. And after three straight Pro Bowl seasons and the most yardage of any back in the NFL during that time, it’s not hard to understand why.

Right now, the Titans can’t do anything about his deal. When the lockout is lifted, it’s going to be interesting to see if the Titans will budge this time around, because I don’t get the sense Johnson will.

If Wyatt’s projections turn out to be correct, then the Titans might as well break out a huge pros vs. cons list and make a decision about this situation once and for all. Because they can’t keep doing this dance with Johnson every offseason.

If there were one player to break the bank on, Johnson would be it. He’s far and away the Titans best player and the team will need him when they usher in the Jake Locker era either this season or next. Thirty million is a lot but it’s not like Johnson is in the twilight of his career. He’s 25 and barring injury, he has plenty of productive seasons ahead of him.

On the flip side, no team wants to set a precedent for allowing players to holdout in order to receive a new contract – even if it’s their best player. Plus, what happens the next time Johnson thinks he has outperformed his deal? Will he force the Titans’ hand again? If the team gives in now, what’s stopping Johnson from holding out again down the road if he wants even more? Besides, Johnson still has two years left on his current deal and he just received a $1.5 million raise last season. The Titans aren’t financially obligated to give him anything more than what he previously signed for.

Again, the Titans will eventually have to choose the lesser of two evils and make a decision once and for all. Either give into Johnson, forego the huge distraction that a holdout would cause and reap the benefits of having a happy CJ on the field, or stand firm, don’t award players for holding out and risk not having their best performer on the field come September. No matter how you slice it, Johnson is putting the Titans in a tough spot and I’m glad I’m not the one who has to make any decisions on this issue. But Tennessee will have to settle on something at some point.

As Wyatt points out in his report, this situation could get messy when training camp begins.

Titans, Chris Johnson work out short-term contract fix

NASHVILLE, TN - NOVEMBER 29:  Chris Johnson #28 of the Tennessee Titans carries the ball during the game against the Arizona Cardinals at LP Field on November 29, 2009 in Nashville, Tennessee. The Titans defeated the Cardinals 20-17. (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)

Adam Schefter is reporting via his Twitter page that Chris Johnson and the Titans have agreed on a new contract. No new years were added – just money, which was essentially all Johnson wanted anyway.

Titans are moving up a portion of RB Chris Johnson’s $2.5 million escalator — and problem averted. He’ll be in camp in time.

You knew a compromise would eventually get worked out. Due to the “30 percent” rule (and the fact that the new CBA deal has yet to be signed), the Titans couldn’t offer him more than a modest raise, which is exactly what they did in the end. The new deal buys the two sides another year to discuss a potential long-term solution, one that will likely make Johnson one of the highest paid players in the NFL.

As Schefter reports, Johnson is unlikely to holdout, which means fans in Tennessee can now collectively breathe a sigh of relief.

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