NFL running back Chris Johnson is on the market, after being released by the Tennessee Titans on Friday. Days later, the free agent could be on the verge of signing with a new team.
The New York Jets appear to be the frontrunners to land the 28-year-old. According to multiple reports, the two sides are meeting on Tuesday, and there’s a chance a deal will get done, by the end of Johnson’s visit.
In 2013, Johnson totaled 1,077 rushing yards. New York hasn’t had a player rush for that many yards, since Thomas Jones in 2009. Last season, Chris Ivory led the team with 833 yards on the ground. Bilal Powell added 697 yards.
Despite Johnson’s production from a year ago, it was the worst season in his six-year career. Since being drafted, Johnson has surpassed the 1,000-yard mark every year. However, his 3.9 yards per carry was his lowest ever total. In 2009, he was considered to be the best running back in football, rushing for 2,006 yards and a 5.6 yards per carry average. After his big season, Johnson continued to see his production slip.
The former first-round pick was the Tennessee Titans’ primary rusher in each season, never recording less than 250 attempts. If Johnson signs a contract with the Jets, that is likely to change. Ivory didn’t match Johnson’s total yards in 2013, but he averaged 4.6 yards per carry. In New York, the two would share time in the backfield.
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Head coach Rex Ryan has stressed the importance of the running game for New York. Adding Johnson to the Jets’ backfield would make it one of the best in the league, which is important, considering they have an unproven Geno Smith at quarterback. After staying away from DeSean Jackson, whom the Jets reportedly had some interest in, New York should have enough money to get a deal done with Johnson.
According to WFAN’s Craig Carton, Johnson had a physical with the Jets on Monday. Sports Illustrated has reported that the running back will meet with teams, but won’t participate in any tryouts.
While rumors swirl that New York is the favorite to sign Johnson, he could still be looking at other teams. The Jets missed the playoffs last year, and if Johnson is going to take a reduced role, he might choose to do so with a team that’s closer to contending for a Super Bowl.
A team like the Denver Broncos could be a good fit for Johnson. With Peyton Manning at the helm, Denver will enter the 2014 season as one of the leading candidates to win the title. The team lost Knowshon Moreno to the Miami Dolphins in March and may be in the market for a productive rusher in the upcoming NFL draft.
Denver has already added a few high-profile free agents (DeMarcus Ware, Aqib Talib) who are looking to win their first Super Bowl, and Johnson could be a similar addition. He would split time with Montee Ball in the backfield.