For the second straight season Tennessee Titans running back Chris Johnson is holding out for a new contract.
Last summer, the NFL’s 2009 rushing leader and offensive player of the year netted $2 million from his training camp holdout. This time around, he’s looking to break the bank.
On Thursday the Titans announced they are willing to meet Johnson’s demands — as soon as the Pro Bowl back shows up to camp.
Titans General Manager Mike Reinfeldt’s announcement Thursday that the team is “willing to make [Johnson] the highest-paid running back in the history of the NFL” reportedly came as a shock to Johnson, who at the time was somewhere else, presumably doing something else.
On Thursday, Johnson told the Tennessean he has yet to receive an offer from the Titans. Johnson — who last year requested a deal with $30 million guaranteed — is due to make $1.065 million this season.
A look at the numbers gives credence to Johnson’s request. Since 2008, no running back has rushed for more yards than Johnson’s 4,598. Adrian Peterson — whose five-year contract is worth $40.5 million compared to Johnson’s $12 million — is second during that span with 4,441. And with the super-short life-span of NFL running backs, it’s understandable that Johnson wants to get his now before his body breaks down.
Former Titans star running back Eddie George agrees. Earlier this week the four-time Pro Bowl selection spoke out on behalf of Johnson at Titans training camp:
“I look at the organization and most of the onus is on them, because they told him they would take care of him after last year. From Chris Johnson’s perspective, I don’t blame him for not being there. He has to do what he has to do because he is one of the top backs in the NFL and the window for a running back is small. He has to get his deal now where he has leverage.”
On Friday morning Reinfeldt explained his decision to put the ball in Johnson’s court on Nashville’s 104.5 The Zone radio station. Music City Miracles transcribed the interview:
“We talked about it some at the beginning of training camp and we talked about it some at the scrimmage on Saturday, but I think the impression was out there that we aren't willing to pay him. We want him here and we want to pay him a good contract. I just wanted people to know that.”
When asked if he thought Johnson and his agent would meet the Titans’ request to come to the Titans team facility to hash out a new contract, Reinfeldt replied: “I get the sense that they are not willing do to that.”
With a shortened offseason placing more importance on practice time and the preseason, the Titans desperately want their star running back in camp A.S.A.P. But will Johnson be willing to meet them at the bargaining table?
Let the holdout watch continue...