With the Titans unwilling to pay running back Chris Johnson $8 million in 2014 and Johnson unwilling to take less, the Titans will be moving on.
Before they do, they’ll try to get value in return for the man they selected in the first-round of the 2008 draft, and to whom they’ve paid $30 million in the last three years.
Per a league source, the Titans soon will commence efforts to trade Johnson. If the Titans can find no takers, they will cut him.
It’s unclear when they would cut him. With no bonus coming due or a trigger to make all or part of the base salary guaranteed, the Titans don’t have to make a decision until the eve of Week One, when the full salary becomes guaranteed as a practical matter.
If he’s not cut before the launch of the offseason program, the Titans could face a repeat of the ugly final days of Steve McNair’s tenure with the team, when the Titans were hoping both to trade McNair and to keep him from suffering a potential season-ending injury while on the premises, which would have made his full salary guaranteed. They locked McNair out of the facility, he filed a grievance, and he eventually won.
From Johnson’s perspective, the sooner the release comes, the better. With a running back market that has yet to generate much buzz, Johnson would quickly go to the top of the class — eclipsing Ben Tate of the Texans, the No. 38 player on the PFT Free Agent Hot 100.
Cutting Johnson would result in a $4 million cap charge. That amount would be cut in half and spread over two years if he’s released with a post-June 1 designation.