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Chris Johnson needs to be used better, Titans CEO says

NFL Media columnist Michael Silver reported over the weekend that Chris Johnson is unlikely to return to the Tennessee Titans at his scheduled $8 million salary in 2014.

In a Tuesday interview with Jim Wyatt of the Tennessean, new team president and CEO Tommy Smith said it was "premature" to suggest Johnson won't be brought back -- presumably at a reduced salary.

"Chris has done nothing but what he's been asked to do there. He suits up and he plays every game," Smith explained. "I think they need to figure out how to use him and his skill set better, but he has been a good teammate and a good player ... We are evaluating each and every position on this team, and we are only going to keep players we think will contribute and earn their keep."

The Titans got off to a 3-1 start with a ball-control approach, in which Johnson averaged 21 carries per game while Jake Locker was "managed" in the passing attack. Since then, Johnson has averaged 16 carries per game in a more turnover-prone offense led by Ryan Fitzpatrick.

While NFL Media Insider Ian Rapoport has reported that Locker's 2015 option will not be picked up in the offseason, Smith insisted the quarterback remains in the team's plans.

"The coaches and personnel people are very high on him," Smith said.

Among Locker, Johnson and coach Mike Munchak, the latter is the one most likely to lose his job in 2014, as recently reported by Silver.

While Smith lauded Munchak's character, he also hinted that the coach is indeed on the hot seat.

"We certainly had higher expectations than what we are seeing right now, across the board, I can assure you of that," Smith said. "Now let's see if we can win three in a row ... At the end of the day, you have to win games."

Changes likely are coming to Nashville in the offseason. Johnson's boom-or-bust style is a poor fit for the power-running scheme that the team's brass envisions. His future likely hinges on the next coaching staff's evaluation and his own willingness to accept a pay cut.

*The latest "Around The League Podcast" recapped all the Week 14 games. *

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