|What's going on with Chris Johnson in Tennessee? (US PRESSWIRE)|
Posted by Ryan Wilson
It's Week 9 and Titans running back Chris Johnson, one of the NFL's best players right up till the moment he signed that huge contract in the offseason, has a grand total of 302 yards this season.
Things have gotten so bad so fast that head coach Mike Munchak had to publicly announce that he had no plans to bench his running back. And there's even talk that the organization could choose to walk away from Johnson at some point in the near future. NFL Network's Jason La Canfora broke down Johnson's contract details Sunday on NFL GameDay Morning.
"[The Titans] looked at this as a long-term deal … but there are always certain caveats. [Johnson] got $30 million guaranteed. Thirteen million of it came this year -- that was fully guaranteed. The other $17 million is not at this point fully guaranteed for injury and skill -- just injury.
"So because of diminished production, he could be let go at some point. Eight million of that $17 million will come the fifth day of the league year in 2012 -- in March -- the other $9 million comes a year after that. Then it becomes fully guaranteed for both.
"So conceivably, [the Titans] could get out after one year for $13 million. After two years, if this continues into 2012, for $22 million. And if [Johnson] doesn't get 1,000 yards rushing this year, $300,000 comes off his $8 million salary in 2012."
A league source tells PFT.com's Mike Florio that several teams think Tennessee could release Johnson before the fifth day of the 2012 league year precisely for the reasons La Canfora outlined above.
Johnson's productivity falling off a cliff is certainly surprising -- the man averaged 1,500 rushing yards per year in his first two seasons (including 5.0 yards per carry) -- but the real story here is the organization's decision to give a running back a huge pay day.
We wrote about it three months ago before Johnson got his money and we'll mention it again in the hopes that other teams learn from Tennessee's mistake: of all the positions on an NFL roster, running back is among the easiest to replace. The takeaway: don't devote a non-trivial slice of the salary cap to them because there are certain to be bigger, harder-to-fill needs on the team.
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