Why would a team release a running back who is pretty much automatic for 1000 rushing yards each season? Money, but not just that. The Tennessee Titans might be heading in a different direction with a new head coach, which means there’s a good chance they’ll be cutting Chris Johnson in the very near future.
According to a report from the Nashville Tennessean, the Titans, who have been contemplating releasing him from the moment they gave him that huge four-year, $53.5 million contract extension in 2011. He made $10 million last season to run for 1077 yards (adding 345 receiving yards), breaking that 1000 barrier on the last game. He’s due to make $8 million next season, and with him averaging only 3.9 yards per carry last year and Ken Whisenhunt known to be a pass-focused head coach, the Titans are leaning more and more towards letting go of Johnson.
There’s also the attitude and demands Johnson brings with him. He wants to see more of the ball (had 321 touches, 5th in the NFL), even though he’s been seeing it about as much as possible, usually ranked in the top 5 when it comes to touches every season. He has made it clear that he won’t be taking a paycut, and the Titans have been talking about a change of culture in the team. No one is naming names, but Johnson suddenly seems like a very good candidate to be released.
Johnson seems to be carried on the success of that 2009 season, when he rushed for 2006 yards (carrying the ball 358 times). These kind of seasons usually take their toll on players, and Johnson hasn’t rushed for more than 1364 yards. He never drops below 1000, but his productivity and yards per carry keep dropping, although it doesn’t seem to affect his ego or his very high self-value.
The Titans signed Shonn Greene to a 3-year, $10 million deal last season. The plan is to use him more in the future (only 77 carries in 2013 due to an injury), which means they have a backup plan for when and if Johnson leaves. Right now, it’s a lot more of a when issue than anything else, and it’s probably going to happen very soon.