Almost two years ago the Tennessee Titans gave themselves the opportunity to walk away this week, but they ultimately decided that Chris Johnson once again will be their running back.
Coach Mike Munchak confirmed Thursday afternoon that the team would not release Johnson before Friday.
Such a move could have saved the Titans significant money. The contract Johnson signed following a 2011 training camp holdout calls for him to earn $10 million this season, $9 million of which is guaranteed if he is on the roster Friday.
The Titans also planned to stick with safety Michael Griffin, who is guaranteed his $3.5 million base salary and a $1 million bonus by virtue of the fact that he is on the roster as of Friday.
“I talked to CJ [Wednesday] briefly, saw how he was doing, making sure there was no misunderstanding about what was going on,” Munchak said. “He was fine. We were good. And he’s enjoying his offseason.
“… Obviously, we honored [his contract] last year an we’ll honor it this year.”
Johnson’s production has dipped in the two seasons since Munchak replaced Fisher as head coach. He rushed for 1,243 yards last season after a career-worst 1,047 in 2011. He averaged more than 11 rushing touchdowns through his first three NFL seasons but scored a total of 10 in the last two years.
Speculation about his future with the team peaked early last fall when he rushed for fewer than 25 yards in four of the Titans’ first five games. He ran for 90 or more each of the next five weeks and ultimately extended his NFL record for touchdown runs of 80 yards or more with three.
According to Munchak, Johnson, one of eight players in league history to rush for 1,000 yards or more in each of his first five seasons, has been a constant in the team’s postseason planning.
“We discuss everything,” Munchak said. “It wasn’t a topic of concern. But … we cover everything. We talk about every possibility, just like everybody does. Even about trading people — we talk about it all the time just to see what options are out there.
“In this case, you’re aware of what your salary cap issues are and where your money is going and those types of things. But there was never any talk that we weren’t going to honor it or cut CJ.”