Not too long ago, Chris Johnson looked to be on a Hall of Fame track. The guy ran for 2,006 yards as a 24-year-old in his second year with the Tennessee Titans. He had an insane 3,997 yards from scrimmage and 26 touchdowns in his first 31 games. Only two players in NFL history had more yards during their first two seasons in the league.
But in the four years since that historic 2009 campaign, Johnson has been ordinary. He's averaging just 4.2 yards per attempt, which is pretty much exactly the league average. That's one spot above Willis McGahee and one below Knowshon Moreno. He hasn't had more than six rushing touchdowns in a season since 2010 and is coming off his worst statistical season yet with only 1,422 yards from scrimmage and 3.9 yards per carry.
That's just unacceptable when you're making $13.5 million a year, which is why it isn't surprising to hear from Jim Wyatt of the Tennessean that new Titans head coach Ken Whisenhunt probably won't keep "CJ2K" on the roster. He apparently refuses to take a pay cut, and as a man who will turn 29 early next season he just doesn't have a lot of value left in Tennessee.
But does Johnson have value anywhere? Certainly someone will take a flier on the guy at an affordable rate, right? I mean, after everyone has ignored his demands on the open market and Johnson and his agent have become desperate?
I don't know. Fewer front offices than ever care about running backs, period, let alone 29-year-olds with bad attitudes. We all know Johnson's ceiling at this point, and too many Alfred Morrises and Arian Fosters have come out of nowhere to dominate. You're better off bringing in a bunch of young nobodies and playing the odds that one will pan out.
Remember how quickly Shaun Alexander bottomed out at around the same age. He was the offensive player of the year as a 28-year-old in 2005 and his career was over in two years. After Seattle gave up on Alexander, he got one four-game stint with the Redskins and that was it.
We're seeing that more and more now, which is why nobody gives big money to backs not named Peterson.
We might have seen the end of Chris Johnson, not just in Tennessee, but in the NFL.