The four-year contract signed by Titans running back Chris Johnson is being sold as a four-year, $53.5 million contract, which translates to an impressive average annual take of $13.375 million. But the true value of the total deal puts the average payout much lower than that.
With pre-existing base salaries of $800,000 in 2011 and $960,000 in 2012, the total money over six years becomes $55.26 million. That’s an average of $9.21 million.
And so, focusing on the new money, Johnson got what he wanted. By focusing on the total money, the Titans kept Johnson at the top of the running back market. Technically, however, Johnson isn’t the highest paid running back.
Vikings running back Adrian Peterson will get $10.7 million this year, nearly $1.5 million more than Johnson’s six-year average.
(In fairness to Johnson, Peterson’s per-year average on his five-year contract was much lower than $10.7 million. Moreover, Johnson will make $13 million in 2011.)
That said, Johnson has scored a $30 million (not $29.5 million or $29.9 million) guarantee, unprecedented for a tailback. Making that amount even more impressive is that the Titans simply don’t shell out that kind of money. And maybe that should be the headline for the reports regarding the basic terms of the deal: Johnson gets $30 million guaranteed.
The four years/$53.5 million and six years/$55.26 million difference is much more than a potato-potahto distinction. And with Johnson getting $13 million this year (and thus $42.26 million over the next five years), it makes us wonder at which point Johnson will be looking for another new contract, once someone signs a long-term deal with a legitimate eight-figure annual average.