Chris Johnson was supposed to be the star and leader of the Tennessee Titans offense for years to come. Now it appears both sides are re-thinking that idea.
The speedy running back signed a four-year, $53.9 million contract extension back in 2011, and it was supposed to keep him in Nashville until 2016. Johnson had also said numerous of times he wouldn’t restructure his deal.
Johnson has now apparently told the team he’s willing to make changes to the terms of his contract if it helps them trade him this offseason, according to NFL.com.
A trade would get the Titans something in return for Johnson, but he would have to reduce his $10 million cap hit for 2014 and the next two seasons for any team to consider taking over his contract.
Johnson’s rushed for 1,000-yards in each of his six NFL seasons, but he took some heat for calling out his offensive line last season and he hasn’t been anything close to the back who rushed for 2,006 yards and 14 touchdowns back in 2009. Tennessee even signed top offensive lineman Andy Levitre last year to open up space for Johnson, but he instead posted one of the worst seasons of his career.
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There’s no word on which teams might be interested in Johnson, but a trade that nets Tennessee draft picks and salary cap relief would be a huge boon for the struggling franchise.
The Titans had $11.4 million in cap space to fill out a roster in need of help on both sides of the ball before coming to terms with linebacker Wesley Woodyard on a reported four-year, $16 million contract on Friday according to The Tennessean.
Depending on how Woodyard’s contract is structured, that doesn’t leave the Titans with much money to build its 14 th ranked defense and 22nd ranked offense. Tennessee also has to make up for the loss of arguably its best defensive player in cornerback Alterraun Verner, who signed with Tampa Bay earlier this week.
If a trade partner can’t be found for Johnson, the Titans could then release him and spend the cap savings on current Baltimore offensive tackle Michael Oher and Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Akeem Jordan, who are both visiting the team Friday The Tennessean also reported.
The addition of Oher could further bolster a Titans offensive line that was ninth in the league in fewest sacks allowed, and six-year veteran Jordan would add some much-needed depth behind the solid linebacker corps of Akeem Ayers and Zach Brown.
Replacing Johnson won’t be easy, but this year’s draft is loaded with top running back prospects like Auburn’s Tre Mason and Arizona’s Ka’Deem Carey. Both could be available in the second round, and Tennessee can use its No. 11 overall pick on a defensive back to replace Verner.