Chris Johnson – The Jets Must Catch This Speed Demon

Posted on 05 April 2014


 

The Tennessee Titans released running back Chris Johnson on April 4th.  Johnson is going to turn 29 years old early next season, and with running backs especially near that 30 year mark, popular opinion is that their best days are behind them.

 

The New York Jets, however, are in a desperate need of playmakers.  Reports circulating ESPN in the immediate aftermath of Johnson’s release report that the Jets were one of a few teams attempting to trade for Johnson prior to his release.  Now that Johnson is on the open market, the Jets need to do whatever they have to (of course, within reason) to land Johnson.

 

If the Jets go hard after Johnson, there is the potential that they may overpay for a guy who may be done in two seasons.  Chris Johnson’s play has gone downhill since his 2,000 yard season in 2009, and he will be coming off knee surgery starting next season.  Overpaying for Chris Johnson, therefore, carries considerable risk.  While a bad contract by an NFL team carries high risk with the hard salary cap, overpaying does not have to correlate to salary cap problems in the future.

 

Of course, Johnson’s numbers had to go down following his 2,000 yard season, since no player in NFL history has had back-to-back 2,000 yard seasons.  His numbers, while not up to the 2,000 yard level, are still impressive.

 

Over the last two seasons, Johnson has rushed for 2,320 yards on 555 carries; an average of 4.2 yards per carry with six rushing touchdowns each season.  Johnson also has 577 receiving yards over the last two seasons and has accounted for over 1,400 yards from scrimmage in each of the last two years.  All in all, Johnson has averaged 4.6 yards per touch (rushing attempt/reception) over the last two year.

 

Johnson has also rushed for over 1,000 yards each of his first six seasons.  His lowest yards per rush attempt average was last season at 3.9 yards per carry, just shy of the four yards per carry mark.  Johnson was playing for a team that was 7-9 last season and played for part of the season with a knee injury.  Johnson has only missed one game in his career and that was in his rookie year.  Johnson is also a speed guy who avoids a lot of hits and hasn’t taken the severe pounding one might expect for a guy who has maintained a heavy workload throughout his career.

 

So, why should the Jets go after Johnson?  It is really very simple.  The Jets are in desperate need of playmakers at the skill positions on offense.  Jets Offensive Coordinator Marty Mornhinweg is one of the better screen callers in the league.  With Geno Smith only entering his second season, he has a lot of maturing to do at quarterback.  Having a game-breaker like Johnson to get the ball to in easy situations can really help Smith’s development.

 

Overpaying for Johnson doesn’t mean the Jets must give Johnson a potentially damaging contract, should he break down.  The Jets can offer Johnson a lot of guaranteed money with incentives for one season and a team option for a second.  Johnson will still only be 29 next year.  The incentives and added stimulus of playing for a team option the following year may bring out the best in him.  If Johnson does break down next season, the cap hit is only for that season, and they don’t have to bring him back the following year.  The Jets also have bruiser Chris Ivory on the team for the tough yards.  If they can use Johnson in specialized situations, they could potentially get three productive years out of him

 

This move makes too much sense for the Jets not to make a serious push at Chris Johnson.  If a team goes overboard and offers Johnson a long-term deal of two or more years with a lot of guaranteed money, then the Jets should stay away.  The questions surrounding Johnson should keep most teams from giving Johnson that kind of deal, so an aggressive but responsible push for Johnson should have him wearing green next season.

 

 





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