Chris Johnson is still a funny guy

chris johnson2

I read a funny thing as I played a bit of catch up this morning following three days of egg nog consumption: Chris Johnson said that he’s still worthy of being paid like one of the league’s most efficient and consistent running backs.

He’s neither of those things, and he hasn’t been for quite some time.

Johnson is due to be paid a base salary of $8 million next year, and since he’s sitting at 950 rushing yards heading into the final weekend and therefore may need to claw to reach 1,000, the Titans requesting a pay cut for him to stick around is more than just expected. It’s logical, common sense to all involved.

Except Johnson. Here’s what he said yesterday when the Tennessean’s Jim Wyatt asked him about forking over a few dollars:

“No way. I don’t feel like it’s all my fault. It’s a team effort.”

“I know I am way better than trying to get 1,000 yards in the last game,” he said. “But looking at the situation, it is a whole bunch of things that go into it. So I don’t get too down on myself. I know when I get the ball and put in the right situation I can still do the same things.”

He’s not wrong in the proverbial “team effort” sense. Of course it’s always a team effort, and despite the offseason additions of Andy Levitre and Chance Warmack, Johnson has at times still received subpar blocking this year.

But even more often he’s danced, and flat out missed running lanes. That’s been the common problem for a running back who’s now not at all young anymore at his position (he’s 28, and will turn 29 early next fall). Yes, he still has burst and game busting speed, which he’s showcased readily on several long, booming plays. His highlights this year include catch and run touchdowns of 49 and 66 yards, and overall eight plays of 20 yards or more.

During his 2009 record-breaking season, that chunk play number was up to 28. Four seasons is roughly half a lifetime in the career of an NFL running back, but Johnson has made it seem much longer. With one more sputtering performance this week, he could set a season low in yards per carry, a number which currently sits at 3.8. It’s arrived there because nothingness surrounds those rare bursts, as Johnson has logged seven games with less than 50 rushing yards, though he’s still contributed as a pass-catching option (four games with over 100 total yards, but just one with +100 rushing yards).

Those numbers lead us to a fine mid-level running back, but that’s not how Johnson is set to be paid in 2014. For perspective, LeSean McCoy currently leads the league with 1,476 rushing yards (526 more than Johnson) and next year he’ll make $7.65 million. Matt Forte signed a four-year extension last summer, and in 2014 he’ll be paid a base salary of $6.5 million including bonuses, even though he’s currently 279 rushing yards (and 495 total yards) ahead of Johnson.

So soon Johnson will be a free agent, and he’ll get paid what he’s worth. The hard way.

More notes, reading, stray thoughts, and other such randomness

It was fun, Nnamdi

Well, recently it wasn’t that much fun, as after signing a $60 million contract with the Eagles in the summer of 2011, a steady spiral began over the last three seasons. That was a product of both Nnamdi Asomugha’s simple deterioration, and the Eagles not using his press skills properly.

But he’s a man who knows when to cut his losses, and now at the age of 32 — which is still quite young by human standards, but somewhat elderly by cornerback standards — he’s retiring. He does so after those two failed seasons in Philadelphia after he was the marquee prize of a frantic post-lockout free agency period in early August, and an equally failed stint as a reserve in San Francisco (he was cut last month).

None of that erases his eight years of dominance with the Raiders, the team he’ll sign a one-day contract with today. Asomugha was selected to three Pro Bowls, and like Darrelle Revis after him and Richard Sherman now, he was the sort of intimidating presence who cut the field in half, making opposing quarterbacks afraid to even look in his direction. Interceptions are nice and all, but Asomugha’s Raider years remain the prime case study to show why using picks and picks alone is a poor way to judge a corner. Asomugha only had 15 career interceptions, eight of which came in one season.

With the foundation he chairs (the Asomugha Foundation), a man who’s shared a panel table with Bill Clinton won’t have a problem staying busy in retirement…

Troy Polamlau also said the retirement word

It was more of a passing thought for Troy Polamalu, and it’s a thought that will inevitably became more and more real since time does that. Polamalu will turn 33 this offseason, and during a time of the year when we’re super jacked for the playoffs starting in a week, the majority of the league begins the long, crappy road to the fall of 2014 in a few days. Unless they get really lucky Sunday, the Steelers will be among those teams, and because of his age and the $8.25 million he’s due next year, a difficult decision awaits with Polamalu. It’s a situation he’s prepared for, and one that may make him contemplate retirement if he’s cut.

From the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review:

Polamalu doesn’t want to think about this possibly being his last game with the Steelers.

“I don’t know,” the seven-time Pro Bowl safety said Thursday about his future in Pittsburgh. “My intention is to play on Sunday, and we’ll see what happens from there on.”

Might he retire, if he doesn’t like the direction the Steelers are headed following what, at best, will be a second successive 8-8 season?

“I don’t know,” Polamalu said. “I really don’t know. … The chips will land wherever they may after this game, and we’ll see.

“I want to play this game as long and as good as I can play it. Whenever that (retirement) time comes, it will come. I’m not sure when it will come, though.”

Things that make you go hmmmm

This is odd and interesting, because when we look back on 2013 (both the calendar year and the football season) significant quarterbacks breaking and the effect that had on teams — and possibly the employment of a coaching staff — will easily be among the main league storylines.

It all started with Robert Griffin III almost exactly one year ago, and now the Cowboys enter their annual NFC East play-in game without Tony Romo (he was placed on the injured reserve today after back surgery), the Packers are just getting Aaron Rodgers back in time for their own play-in game after a lengthy absence, and the Bears managed to win important games without Jay Cutler due to the superb play of Josh McCown.

So in a year when quarterbacks generally stayed healthy, the crumbling of a select few had a major impact.

Week 17 fake football stuff

I’ll conclude with a bit of a housekeeping note. You won’t be seeing much of the regular fantasy content around here or going forward for a bit (although I will be doing a retrospective “What we learned” post soon). For the vast majority of of leagues, the fake season ended in Week 16, because this Sunday is usually a wasteland of benched starters, and eliminated teams holding auditions. The fantasy rash never dies around here, it just takes a brief backseat in January and early February for reality playoff fun time.

But if you’re in a league that extends through Week 17, please see the always wise shepherds over at NumberFire for some sit/start advice.