Chris Johnson has rushed for 3370 yards and 25 touchdowns in the past two seasons. He has never rushed for fewer than 1228 yards in any given year. He’s one of six running backs to ever go for 2,000 yards in one season. He has a career yards per carry average of 5.0. He is, without a doubt, one of the most electrifying players in the game of football today, combining a rare combination of great speed, terrific vision, and unparralleled lateral quickness.

Chris Johnson is terrible.

As you may have heard, the Titans superstar running back has yet to report to training camp because of a contract dispute. NFL fans are all too used to this story- Player X wants fair compensation, and holds out of camp. Management starts sweating bullets when it realizes that they may actually start the regular season without Player X. Player X gets a boatload of money. Ho hum, right? That’s part of the business.

To be fair to Johnson, he has been woefully underpaid for his efforts thus far in his career. His base salary in ’11? $800,00 (before incentives, but still a slap in the face to a player of Johnson’s abilities).

The Titans have agreed to make Chris Johnson the highest paid running back in the history of football. This would include a base salary ranging from $10-13 million, and would most likely include incentives that Johnson could potentially reach. Sounds fair, right? A good player should be paid accordingly!

Wrong.

Johnson isn’t satisfied with the Titan’s offer, and refuses to pad up until he gets what he wants. My problem? What, exactly, does he want?

The Arizona Cardinals recently signed Larry Fitzgerald to a $15 million per year contract, clearly overpaying business-wise to lock up a fan favorite and cornerstone of the franchise. Johnson refers to this as “playmaker” money, and doesn’t want to be limited to getting running back money. The Titans, of course, think this is too much money to hand over to a player who plays such a violent position. Johnson is a ball carrier, and repeatedly collides with the biggest and strongest defensive forces in the game. Here is an interesting list of running backs who had magnificent years and then gradually dropped off over time (remember, Johnson has already rushed for 600 fewer yards than he did in ’10):

’03 Jamaal Lewis: 387 carries, 2066 yards, 14 touchdowns, 129 yards per game

’04 Jamaal Lewis: 235 carries, 1006 yards, 7 touchdowns, 83 yards per game

’05 Jamaal Lewis: 269 carries, 906 yards, 3 touchdowns, 61 yards per game

Hmmmmm….

’06 Ladainian Tomlinson: 348 carries, 1815 yards, 28 touchdowns, 113 yards per game

’07 Ladainian Tomlinson: 315 carries, 1474 yards, 15 touchdowns, 92 yards per game

’08 Ladainian Tomlinson: 292 carries, 1110 yards, 11 touchdowns, 69 yards per game

Hmmmmmmm…..

Lewis, granted, was a bigger, more physical back who ran between tackles more than Johnson. But Tomlinson had nearly an identical play style as his baby blue laden counterpart, and declined rapidly after his monster 2006 season. Obviously, Tomlinson was older than Johnson, and I’m not predicting a significant decrease in production from CJ2k, I’m just pointing out the elephant in the room: running backs have a short shelf life and are susceptible to injury. That’s just the nature of the beast.

Chris Johnson is a talented football player who deserves to be paid accordingly. That said, being paid as the greatest at his position should be more than enough to satisfy #28.

Get suited up. Go to practice. Do what you do. Play football.

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