What once seemed like a foregone conclusion that 2012 would be the final season for Chris Johnson with the Tennessee Titans now appears to be changing directions. According to sources, including Ian Rapoport of NFL.com, the Titans expect to hold on to Johnson for at least the 2013 NFL season.
Rapoport reported that Johnson’s roster spot beyond this season is “fine,” and that the Titans fully expect him to once again be their starting running back as they enter the 2013 season, despite some of the struggles and comments by Johnson throughout the past year and a half.
The Titans owe Johnson $10 million in 2013. The surprising part is that because of how the contract is worded, they will owe him $9 million in guaranteed money if he is still on the roster as of the fifth day of the new NFL calendar year. That would give Tennessee five days in order to decide if it is worth it to pay Johnson as the top back in the league when, clearly, he no longer is.
While he can still rip off some big runs – as evidenced by his 94 yard touchdown run against the New York jets on Monday Night Football – Johnson struggles to find holes like he once could. Blame it on the offensive line. Blame it on inconsistent quarterback play. Either way, while Johnson is still the best offensive weapon on a team lacking explosiveness, he is not a top running back.
In fact, one could argue that they would be hard pressed to even place him in the top 10 as of now.
With that being said, Johnson is still on pace to rush for over 1,300 yards with two games remaining, and he could finish the 2012 season with a yards-per-carry average of around five. That is considerably higher than the one or two yards per carry he was averaging over the first month of the season.
Who knows what the 2013 season will bring in Tennessee? Maybe Jake Locker will take a step forward, allowing Johnson to have more room up front without seven and eight man fronts. Maybe the offensive line will improve and remain healthy throughout the year. Maybe Johnson will challenge to run for close to 2,000 yards once again.
Then again, the Titans could change their course once again before February 9 of next year and decide that Johnson can be some other team’s giant question mark each and every week.
You never know in the National Football League. You just never know.