Last year, Titans running back Chris Johnson wanted a new contract. The Titans resisted, due in part to the rules of the uncapped year, which would have required the team to give Johnson a gigantic signing bonus in order to get a deal done. Eventually, the two sides agreed to a short-term fix, which gave Johnson some extra money but nothing remotely close to the mammoth deal he wanted.
He still wants that mammoth deal. Jim Wyatt of the Tennessean reported last month that Johnson will hold out without one. We’ve confirmed that, indeed, a showdown is looming between the Titans and Johnson.
With a new CBA and an expected requirement that teams spend 95 percent or more of the salary cap and a roster in Tennessee that currently features no players who are earning truly big money, the Titans should be able to give Johnson the new deal he wants. But then the question becomes whether he’ll be paid in accordance with the running back market (which could get a significant boost once Adrian Peterson signs a new deal), or whether Johnson will seek the kind of contract reserved for the league’s elite players regardless of position.
Complicating matters is the fact that the Titans simply don’t pay anyone big money, except when forced to do so via the slotting of a high first-round draft pick, a dynamic that is expected to end under the new labor deal. If they choose not to reverse their history with Johnson, they could be without his services in 2011.
Of course, the team ultimately has plenty of leverage. With Johnson under contract for another year and with the Titans holding the ability to apply the franchise tag, a decision by the Titans to play hardball could make it hard for Johnson to get what he wants.