In the weeks since the New England Patriots‘ elimination in the postseason by the Denver Broncos in the AFC Championship game, much has been made of the team’s roster at cornerback, safety, wide receiver and tight end. However, few questions have been raised regarding the team’s running back corp.
This past season, the Pats had LeGarrette Blount, Stevan Ridley, Shane Vereen and Brandon Bolden. As of this moment, Blount is a free agent who could command a high salary on the open market given his performance at the end of 2013. Ridley could be on the trading block due to fumble issues, while Vereen and Bolden are not feature backs.
That fact will likely lead to the Patriots dipping into the free agent market or the draft to find a starting running back for 2014 and beyond.
One solution that could make sense for them is Tennessee Titans running back Chris Johnson. Johnson is a shifty, durable running back who has had no less than 250 carries per season in his career. He has also rushed for at least 1,000 yards in every season throughout his career, while being among the best receiving running backs in the NFL since he entered the league.
He is among the fastest running backs in the league as well, running a 4.24 40-yard dash time at the combine in 2008. As far as durability goes, he has only missed one game in his entire career despite playing with several injuries, including a torn meniscus from Week 3 of this season onward.
There are some red flags for Johnson, however. At times during his career, his effort has been questioned as he seemed to leave yards on the field. He has also had some issues with the Titans organization, mostly related to money.
There was a time when Johnson had to claw his way to a payday despite being the unanimous best running back in the game during his early years. He has since gotten paid, but animosity has lingered between the two sides. In the past few years, while his play may have fallen off a bit (if you call 1,422 yards and 10 total touchdowns falling off), he is still a great running back in the league.
A change of scenery to New England could do wonders for Johnson as he struggled for a while behind a lackluster offensive line, and was in an offensive system that had its fair share of growing pains in the passing game with quarterbacks like Vince Young and Jake Locker.
Having a great passing game and quarterback in Tom Brady and having one of the best run-blocking offensive lines blocking in front of him, Johnson could have a season that few running backs have had before him in 2014. Bringing CJ2K to New England makes a lot of sense for the Patriots, and they may be able to get him for a bargain in free agency this March as he is expected to be cut in the coming weeks.