The stalemate between Chris Johnson and the Tennessee Titans is over. And the predictable result is that CJ2K is now a very, very rich man.
On the surface it appears that the Titans caved, because Johnson isn’t just the highest-paid running back in NFL history, he’s being paid as one of the league’s elite players.
It’s a four-year, $53.5-million deal with $30 million guaranteed, according to Jim Wyatt of the Tennessean. That’s $13.5 million per year, which is almost $3 million more than Adrian Peterson will make in 2011.
Johnson made it clear earlier this month that he wanted to be paid as a “top playmaker,” which shouldn’t be confused with “top running back” because, let’s face it, most NFL running backs fall under the dime-a-dozen category. This deal places him somewhere between the league’s top playmakers and the league’s premier running backs.
Johnson still isn’t getting top quarterback money, and Larry Fitzgerald’s new deal smashes this one. But running backs have short shelf lives, and Johnson has won big with a four-year extension.
That’s right, it’s an extension, which means Johnson will remain under contract with the Titans through the 2016 season. He’ll be turning 32 before this thing expires, which essentially means this should be the only mega-contract of his career.
I understand that Mike Reinfeldt’s hands were at least loosely tied, but the team is not going to enjoy having a 30-year-old Johnson counting double digits against the cap in four or five years. The details of how the money will be spread are yet to come, but I’d expect Johnson to be paid most of that guaranteed money in the early years. [Update: That appears to be the case, as Wyatt reports that Johnson will receive $31 million in the next three years.]
The Titans get Johnson under contract exactly 10 days before the start of the 2011 season. Last year, Darrelle Revis’ long holdout played a role in his early-season struggles as he dealt with hamstring issues. Johnson will have a full week of practice (and then some) before the team plays the Jaguars on Sept. 11, but there should be some concern that he won’t be able to catch up physically and mentally (the Titans are running a new offense under Chris Palmer) by the time Week 1 arrives.