When a report emerged last week that the Titans are likely to dump running back Chris Johnson and his $8 million base salary after the 2013 season, we said it was premature.
Titans CEO Tommy Smith thereafter also said it was premature.
Per a source with knowledge of the situation, it’s so premature that there haven’t even been any internal discussions about keeping or cutting Johnson, who remains on track for his sixth straight 1,000-yard season in six years.
The decision won’t be made, and the discussions won’t commence, until the team knows the identity of its coach for 2013. Also affecting the eventual assessment will be the reality that, since the outset of the 2011 season, the Titans have paid Johnson $31 million.
In the grand scheme of things, $8 million isn’t much for a star player who still has a couple of years left in his prime, especially in light of the “butts in seats” factor. While wins fill the stands to capacity, the Titans need to have a big-name player to market until they team will market itself.
Actually, Johnson may not mind being cut. He’d have a chance on the open market of making a lot more than $8 million as part of a new deal signed with a team that wants him — and he’d walk away with the aforementioned $31 million. Whether he’ll be cut, kept, traded, whatever won’t be determined until January at the earliest.
Even then, the fact that Johnson has no early offseason triggers in his contract gives Tennessee time to make up its mind, based possibly on whether another team is willing to make a deal to get the balance of his contract.