Tennessee Titans  

 

Johnson is justified in getting big payday from Titans

Pay the man!

That's my advice to the Tennessee Titans as star running back Chris Johnson contemplates a holdout prior to the 2011 season in an effort to land a new contract.

It takes three years to figure out if a player can play in the NFL, and Johnson has certainly produced at a level that has exceeded his draft status and his rookie contract.

Johnson has big money in mind
Chris Johnson is preparing for a holdout if he doesn't get the deal he wants from the Titans, but should Tennessee make a big-money commitment to the running back? More ...

Johnson has had one of the most prolific starts to an NFL career, enjoying three-straight Pro Bowls. He set an NFL record with 2,509 yards from scrimmage in 2009, and became only the sixth runner in league history to surpass the 2,000-yard mark.

Furthering CJ2K's case is the fact that he has 24 100-yard rushing games since coming into the league in 2008. Johnson has averaged a remarkable 97.8 yards rushing per game throughout his career -- the highest per game average of any active runner in the league -- and his robust 5.0 yards per carry is indicative of his big-play ability.

The numbers portray Johnson as an explosive runner. However, it's an examination of his game film that justifies his standing as the game's top runner. Johnson possesses a rare combination of speed, quickness and burst and is effective as both an inside and outside runner. He is a patient runner with the footwork and vision to find creases on runs between the tackles. He slips and slithers through gaps, and his impressive burst allows him to get to the second level.

Though his running style is built on finesse, Johnson shows more power and strength than expected from a 5-foot-11, 191-pound player. He routinely bounces off tackles on inside runs, and several of his long gains come after first contact.

On the perimeter, Johnson uses his world-class speed to outrun defenders. He often gets to top speed within three or four steps, and that instant acceleration allows him to outrun the pursuit angles of defenders. Johnson's speed is complemented by his agility and cutback ability that make him a nightmare to tackle in the open field. While most former track standouts don't have "wiggle," Johnson has exceptional balance and body control that allow him to stop on a dime and create plays in space. To that point, he has 44 runs of 20-plus yards and 13 runs of 40-plus yards.

Johnson is also a critical element in the Titans' passing game. As a threat to score from anywhere on the field, he repeatedly gets the ball on screens or dump-offs to take advantage of his speed in space. He led the Titans with 44 receptions last season, and his 137 grabs over the past three seasons puts him among the top pass catchers at running back over that span.

Given Johnson's résumé, it's time for the Titans to step up. He has out-performed his five-year, $12 million rookie contract that was far below market value.

Johnson has already stated his desire to be the league's highest paid running back, which makes Steven Jackson's six-year, $48.5 million deal the starting point in any negotiations. The pact included $21 million in guaranteed money, and an average annual salary tops the $8 million mark. Other contracts that will certainly enter the discussion include those of Jamaal Charles (five years, $32.5 million with $13 million in guarantees) and Maurice Jones-Drew (five years, $31 million with $17.5 guaranteed).

Those numbers are significant because none of the aforementioned players have produced at Johnson's level, yet have accounted for a similar percentage of offensive output for their respective teams.

In a league that is all about what players have done lately, the Titans should show Johnson the money. A lot of it.

Follow Bucky Brooks on Twitter @BuckyBrooks

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