It’s looking more and more likely that the Tennessee Titans will soon cut running back Chris Johnson, less than three years after signing him to a contract that has paid out, to date, $30 million.
It’s safe to say he won’t make $30 million over the next three years. The Titans don’t want to pay him $8 million this year, and if anyone else thought $8 million was a bargain, a trade would have happened by now.
So what will he make? Receiver DeSean Jackson entered the market 17 days late, and on Day 22 got a higher annual average ($8 million) than any of the other 50-plus receivers who were in line for new contracts.
For running backs, the current high-water mark is a low bar of $3.5 million per year.
Surely, CJ2K has greater value after six NFL seasons than Toby Gerhart after four or Donald Brown after five. With six straight years of more than 1,000 yards rushing, Johnson already sits at 48th on the all-time list at 7,965 yards.
There’s a good chance he’ll get $8 million or more this year via signing bonus that prorates to cover future cap years. The annual average, however, likely will be more in the range of less than $5 million per year. While fantasy football owners love their running backs, real football owners realize they’re interchangeable parts, and that plenty of younger and cheaper options are available at every round of the draft and beyond.
The Titans have come to that conclusion this year with Johnson. It’s possibly only a matter of time before the Vikings come to that same realization about Adrian Peterson, and before the Eagles come to that same conclusion about LeSean McCoy.