The primary question in regard to Chris Johnson remains unchanged.
How much is too much?
Only now, instead of wondering about money, the issue pertains to workload. With the six-year, $53 million package agreed upon Thursday, which will keep Johnson with the Tennessee Titans through 2016, everyone involved has more than a week to figure out what is reasonable to expect from the record-setting running back in the opening weeks of the regular season beginning with the Sept. 11 opener at Jacksonville.
“I’m sure he could do some good things in a short period of time because he is a special type of player,” coach Mike Munchak said recently. “But for us to think he is going to touch the ball 30-plus times [against Jacksonville] … it's highly likely he would be able to do that and do it well without having injury issues.”
Johnson officially has handled the ball 786 times (674 rushes, 94 receptions) over the last two seasons — a significant number — without having missed a game. He played the 2010 season after having trained on his own throughout the offseason but took part in training camp.
Last season he carried 27 times in a Week 1 victory over the Oakland Raiders.
“The good thing is we got it done,” general manager Mike Reinfeldt said. “He has nine or 10 days to get ready and get a lot of practice time. It’s been a distraction, but I think the good thing is we got it right — and for six years Chris Johnson is going to be a Titan.”
The sides agreed to a four-year extension worth $53.5 million and increases what Johnson will make this season to $13 million. That, combined with the remaining two years of his current contract, makes the entire package worth $56 million over six years. Of that, $30 million is guaranteed — the most ever for a running back in the NFL.
Johnson was not with the Titans for their victory Thursday night in New Orleans. He was scheduled to report to the team Friday to sign the deal and take his physical.
“This was a tough one because he had two years left on his deal at the same time [his goal of] being the highest paid running back … there were a lot of issues we had to deal with,” Reinfeldt said. “At the same time, I think we got it right. Both sides had to compromise some and both sides had to give up some things, but at the end of the day we got, probably, the right deal.
“It gives us the opportunity to kind of put together the team and work the cap and still have a lot of other parts that we need.”