Last year, when Titans running back Chris Johnson suddenly wasn’t the guy they thought he was when the Titans paid him a new contract, some teams were preparing for the possibility that the Titans would cut him, in order to avoid owing him a fully-guaranteed $8 million base salary in 2012.
Now that Johnson has gained 45 yards on 33 carries through three games, the Titans may secretly be wishing they had.
And this year, the stakes are even higher.
Per a source with knowledge of Johnson’s contract, Johnson has a $10 million base salary in 2013. Of that amount, $9 million becomes fully guaranteed if Johnson is still on the roster on the fifth day of the 2013 waiver period, which launches in the days after the Super Bowl. (Until then, the money is guaranteed for injury only.)
And so, at some point in the first week after the Super Bowl, the Titans will have to make an up-or-down decision on Johnson, with $10 million hanging in the balance.
Sure, he could in theory be traded after the Titans allow the guarantee to kick in. But what other team would pay him $10 million for 2013?
If Johnson can’t get going this year, at some point the team will have to decide whether to throw more good money after what has turned out so far to be a very bad performance. Though Johnson somehow cobbled together 1,047 rushing yards in 2011, he has fallen far short of the high bar that allowed him to break the bank.