Recent media reports have suggested that the New York Giants have piqued interest in soon to be free agent Chris Johnson. According to the report, the Giants have already made an initial inquiry to the Tennessee Titans about Johnson’s availability.
Johnson is a terrific player who has the ability to change the course of the game in a single-play. He has exceeded 1,000 yards rushing in all six of his NFL seasons and amassed 50 rushing touchdowns during that period. His 2,000-yard season in 2009 was one of the best single-season statistical efforts in recent history.
Pairing Johnson with Rashad Jennings and David Wilson would give the Giants a dynamic three-headed rushing attack. In any given game, New York could interchange all three running backs, keeping their legs fresh as both the game and opposing defenses wore down. Additionally, the strength of the Giants’ running game would keep the opposition committed to defending the run, providing quarterback Eli Manning and his receivers with more one-on-one match-ups.
Unfortunately, when Johnson hits free agency he will seek to command a large scale salary. After actively spending to revamp their team this offseason New York, has little salary cap money left with which to maneuver. Most recently Johnson refused to accept a salary cap cut to his current three-year, $23 million contract. It seems highly unlikely that he will take a portion of that contract to play for the Giants.
New York could conceivably ask Manning to restructure his own deal in order to free up additional cap room to sign Johnson. I believe this move is unlikely because it goes against the traditionally conservative principles of the Giants’ organization. The team doesn’t want to overextend itself in a single free agency period and will likely stand pat in any big deals from now until the draft. General manager Jerry Reese has seen the NFL come down on his division rivals for bad bookkeeping. He is aware that mismanaging the salary cap can have lasting consequences.