Is Chris Johnson Worth His Massive New Four-Year, $53.5 Million Contract?
Chris Johnson‘s holdout is finally over. After sitting on the sidelines for more than a month while his Tennesse Titans teammates went through training camp and the preseason, the Titans finally stepped up to the plate and gave CJ the four-year, $53.5 million contract extension (with $30 million guaranteed!) that he was looking for. He wanted to be paid like one of the NFL’s elite players—and he got his wish. As it stands, he’s one of the highest-paid players in the league and is now officially the face of the Titans franchise.
But, did the Titans actually manage to overpay Johnson? Despite the massive stats he’s managed to put up—he ran for more than 2000 yards during the 2009 season—he was shut down in a few games last year and, while he made his third Pro Bowl in three years, he didn’t quite live up to all the hype he built up the previous season. At the beginning of the season, CJ said he wanted to break Eric Dickerson‘s record of 2105 yards rushed in a single season. But with defenses keying in on him, CJ didn’t even come close to breaking the record. Does that mean he’s not worth the big investment the Titans just made in him?
Um, in a word: No. I still want to be clear. I think it’s highly unlikely that Johnson will ever break Dickerson’s mark. His best opportunity to do it probably would have been back in 2009 when he was running circles around NFL linebackers and secondaries. However, even if he never comes close to breaking the mark, Johnson will still be a valuable commodity for the Titans for years to come. Over the course of the next few years, Johnson will literally be the Titans. They’ve got Matt Hasselback and Jake Locker running the quarterback spot now, meaning they’ll need Johnson to take some pressure off of them by opening up the run. In time, Locker will hopefully flourish as an NFL quarterback and Johnson will get the chance to run free again. It makes him the single-most important player on the Titans.
It also makes him one of the most important players to his team in all of the league. Like Peyton Manning or Tom Brady, he’s the man on his team and, without him, his team will likely suffer immensely. Unlike those guys, though, he’s a running back and is more prone to injury. Still, the Titans had to do what they did and pay Johnson big money for his services. Otherwise, he would have been disgruntled for the next year or so and eventually decided to take his talents elsewhere. That they were able to work out a deal prior to the start of the season is a bonus. He’ll now get the chance to play catch-up and be ready for the opening game of the 2011-12 NFL season.
In four years, the Titans are going to be roughly $50 million poorer. But it’s an investment that they had to make right now. Bottom line: Chris Johnson is the best running back in the league—and one of the best players overall. So it only made sense for the Titans to step up and do what they had to do. Now comes the fun part: Watching CJ earn his money on the field. Football fans—and fantasy football fans—rejoice! Chris Johnson’s lockout is finally over. And not a moment too soon.