In early September of last year, the Titans signed Johnson to a hefty contract extension that essentially gives Johnson a six-year, $56 million deal with an average annual value of $9.3 million. He is due to make an $8 million base salary that became fully guaranteed on the fifth day of the 2012 season. Next season, he is scheduled to make $10 million which becomes fully guaranteed on fifth day of the 2013 league year.
There is no question that at the time of the signing Johnson was one of the best running backs in the game. He was coming off of three consecutive years of 1,000 yards including a 2,006 yard effort in 2009.
Last year, Johnson began to slow down somewhat. He managed only 4 TDs and 4.0 yards per carry and 1,047 yards. Everyone expected Johnson to have a bounce back season this year but he has been just dreadful. So far this year, Johnson has 45 yards on 33 carries, an abysmal 1.4 yard average.
Opposing teams don’t pay any attention to Johnson right now because he just seems absolutely incapable of doing any damage. In fact, his longest carry this season is 13 yards. Thirteen of his 45 yards came on one carry. Without that run, Johnson would be averaging 1 yard per carry.
Clearly, something is wrong. So far, in every contest this season, Johnson has been outgained by quarterback Jake Locker. That isn’t exactly a vote of confidence for Johnson. Granted, the Titans have been in three games that have been shootouts, games where the Titans either fell behind early or had to throw the ball to keep up.
That kind of football doesn’t bode well for a running game regardless of who is back there. Still, one would expect Johnson to have a little more impact than 1.4 yards per carry.
There is no reason to think that Johnson will remain with the team beyond this season. In fact, Johnson probably will be faced with replacement by the mid-point of this season. He is not getting the job done when he is in there and the Titans must find an alternative in either Javon Ringer or Jamie Harper, two younger, cheaper options than Johnson.
Johnson might have plenty of football left in him but his future might lay elsewhere.