Is Chris Johnson bad for business?

Sunday, May 16, 2010 at 11:45pm

It’s just business. Everyone involved understands that.

For the Tennessee Titans, Chris Johnson’s desire for a new contract and his attempt to drive negotiations by staying away from offseason workouts is hardly business as usual.

In the 14 years since the franchise relocated from Houston, there have been the occasional lengthy negotiations, which have caused top draft picks to miss the start of training camp (see Haynesworth, Albert or Jones, Pacman). There also have been plenty of salary cap restrictions that have forced management’s hands on personnel decisions.

This is something different, though, which makes it difficult to anticipate the resolution.

“There’s been on occasion, in years past, some issues,” coach Jeff Fisher said. “There’s always going to be a day where there’s a wedding or a graduation or a cruise or something and somebody misses one [workout].

“But when guys decide not to come in because they’re displeased with their contract, that’s an issue. That’s the business side of it, and we’re not going to dwell on it.”

In summation: Johnson, the All-pro running back, wants a big deal; the team treats his absence like it’s no big deal.

It’s been almost a decade since a similar situation played out at the team’s MetroCenter executive offices and training facility.

Cornerback Samari Rolle missed organized workouts in May and then left the team for several days near the end of training camp as he sought a long-term contract. It was less than a week after he rejoined the team that he signed a six-year, $37.5 million pact.

The difference is that Rolle was eligible for restricted free agency that season and had a one-year qualifying offer on the table. He signed that deal in order to report for the start of training camp and then had it replaced by the lengthy package.

Beyond that, some of the Titans’ more dubious moments involved guys who had contracts and actually showed up to work.

In 2003, linebacker Randall Godfrey agreed to a renegotiation of his deal in February. Then, within a matter of weeks, he was released so that the team could re-sign three others, including punter Craig Hentrich and backup quarterback Neil O’Donnell.

Three years later Steve McNair was famously asked to leave the training facility because of legal issues related to his contract, which the team wanted to renegotiate. Before the end of the summer, he was traded to Baltimore.

Tight end Bo Scaife and linebacker Stephen Tulloch, two others who have missed all four organized team activities (officially, they are voluntary workouts) so far this month, are in situations similar to Rolle’s.

Both were forced into restricted free agency for the second consecutive year by a change in the league’s business rules in the last year of its current Collective Bargaining Agreement. Scaife has signed his one-year tender but still has not reported. Tulloch has not signed his deal.

Johnson has three years remaining on the five-year contract he signed after being drafted in the first round in 2008. Yet after setting an NFL record for total yards from scrimmage and becoming the sixth man in league history to rush for better than 2,000 yards in a season, he figures his value can’t get much higher.

“There’s a business aspect to this game, and that part of it we all understand,” veteran linebacker Will Witherspoon said. “… [Johnson] wants to be here to get the job done and to be the best player he can be. At the same time, he’s got to decide what’s the best decision for him.

“You don’t play the game long. I’ve been lucky to play as long as I have. Sometimes you have to make the right business decision.”

4 Comments on this post:

By: KaeWor on 5/16/10 at 10:31

Running backs don't last long in this league; especially when they're as heavily used and relied upon as CJ. He's shown that he deserved to be drafted in the top 5 -- maybe number 1 -- but he's been paid like a 24th pick for 2 outstanding years. At least he waited until he REALLY earned it to ask for the extra money. Let him make the money while he's still young and healthy.

By: d4deli on 5/17/10 at 11:27

Johnson may want to be here to get the job done, but he also wants to be paid more. Let's sign a 5 year contract at a set price, but then you decide you are worth more, so you demand more, skip practices, etc. ..... can you say prima dona? CJ wouldn't be where he is without the support of his team. So, now where is CJ?

By: leadfoot on 5/18/10 at 3:39

Let me say that I do believe that CJ is a running back that did a great job behind a great offensive line that propelled him to stardom so fast . He didn't do it alone and we all do know that as well as him too deep down. Now to the problem at hand about a neww contract. I am a season ticket holder and I paid dearly for my PSL Liscense to have that oppertunity to see my TiTans play .Now I too signed a contract that I would honor my obligation to the Titans and I have done just that .My question is why is CJ any better than to honor his contract and play ball until the current contract that he signed is ready for reconstruction. I don't like sitting in my seats like I did last year for the games they lost in the biginning but do you think they would have redone my contract for reasons that I was unhappy because they wern't the team that they were suppose to be at the bigining of the season. No I really don't think CJ is any better than any of us that go to work everyday and prove our worth and we can't lay out until they give us a raise for our work that we signed on for. We get our raises accordingly and he and all NFL players that are fortunate enough to do something they love so much should be rewarded when there contracts run out .If they have problems like that so often , there agants shouldn't sign (5) year contracts in the first place. CJ , your good and will probably be great but one good season don't make you all that so get back to work and your raise will come I can almost guarantee that .

By: kanno on 5/18/10 at 6:28

kanno truth
If you think that foot ball is like you sitting you fat ass in the bleachers you are real stupid. If the man gets hurt he's done Pay him now for what he did. baseball pays for your potential foot ball pays for your past performance. Taking hits is a bitch and the owner has the money to pay because viewership goes up if you are a bad ass dude on the field and Chris is a bad ass dude on the field.