On Monday, Eagles receiver DeSean Jackson reported to camp, one day before the deadline for picking up his fourth year of service toward free agency. In contrast, Titans running back Chris Johnson has continued his holdout, forfeiting his fourth year of service toward free agency.
It’s no surprise. With two more years on his contract, Johnson (unlike Jackson) won’t be an unrestricted free agent in March 2012. So, like Jets cornerback Darrelle Revis in 2010 (who also had two years left on his contract at the time), Johnson has sacrificed a fourth year of service toward free agency.
The question now becomes whether Johnson, who turns 26 on September 23, will show up before the start of the regular season and, ultimately, whether he’ll report by Week 10, the deadline for getting credit for the fourth year of his contract.
The Titans won’t talk to Johnson about a long-term deal until he reports. Johnson possibly is leery about that, in part because the Titans have never really shelled out big money to anyone.
From Johnson’s perspective, taking a stand makes sense, given that the Titans have him for the next two years at a bargain, that they can then use the franchise tag on him for a season or two, and that they then can move on when he’s 29 going on 30, which is essentially 59 going on 60 for tailbacks. Given the realities of the position, the window to get paid big money closes early — for a guy like Johnson who has a low-first-round slotted deal, it makes sense to preserve the remaining tread on his tires until he gets a deal that reflects what he brings to the table.