It’s become apparent over the past two seasons that Chris Johnson isn’t the running back that once pushed Adrian Peterson for the title of “NFL’s Best Running Back.”
Unfortunately for the Tennessee Titans, they’re still paying him like he’s CJ2K and it’s time for that to stop. Regardless of the fact that he still has that speed and sizzle that made him so dangerous in 2009, Johnson’s lack of production simply isn’t worth the cover charge anymore.
The Titans will have a hard decision to make soon, as they’ll have to pay Johnson $10 million to play in 2013. With the February 9 deadline to cut him drawing near, it’s time for them to move on from one of the biggest financial burdens in the NFL.
Put simply, the production isn’t there anymore. Despite his occasional explosion in 2012, Johnson failed to crack the 60-yard barrier in eight of 16 games throughout the season. In the season opener, he amassed a measly four yards on 11 carries. The fact that Johnson racked up 1,243 yards on the year is an injustice to just how bad of a campaign it was for the former superstar.
On top of his inconsistency, Johnson doesn’t fit the plan that head coach Mike Munchak and Co. have for the Titans offense. With the reins now firmly in young quarterback Jake Locker’s hands, the offense needs a running back who can pick up three or four yards on every carry. Don’t get me wrong; Johnson’s game-breaking runs are terrific, but his overwhelming negative runs are huge crutches for the Titans. Especially considering Locker’s inaccuracy and growing pains as an NFL passer, the youngster can’t handle being put into so many third-and-longs.
The only lingering issue is that the Titans don’t have an array of talented options behind Johnson. The roster currently offers backups Javon Ringer and Jamie Harper, both of whom are capable of handling a significant chunk of the workload. The problem is that neither brings much speed to the mix with their powerful, bruising running styles. Unless the Titans plan on implementing a smash-mouth ground game, that isn’t going to cut it.
What the Titans can do is lessen the salary cap hit by severing ties with Johnson while finding a speedster to provide that change of pace via the 2013 NFL Draft. There will be a number of capable contributors in the early rounds of April’s upcoming draft, and the Titans could greatly benefit from plucking one of them off of the board.
If they can find the aforementioned speedster while incorporating the power of Ringer and Harper into the offensive game plan, there’s no reason to believe that they can’t live without Johnson. He’s far too inconsistent to help Locker develop as the leader of the offense and has proven that he can’t be relied on.
Cut an arrogant, inconsistent, selfish player and save yourself millions? Sounds like a plan.