Chris Johnson Agrees to Terms with Tennessee

Chris Johnson and the Titans have agreed to a six-year, $53 million contract which should get Johnson into camp in enough time to be ready for Week 1. $30 million of the contract is guaranteed. Johnson wins this stalemate, as these numbers are closer to what it was reported that he wanted, rather than being close to what the Titans apparently wanted to give him.

By the way, we'll get up a KUBIAK update soon, but this will change Johnson's Risk factor back to Yellow.

UPDATE: It looks like this was an extension, not a new deal at the end of his current deal. So it's actually six years, not the originally reported four.

View Full Article


45 comments, Last at 11 Mar 2012, 12:12pm

#1 by Dean // Sep 01, 2011 - 1:14pm

I'll wait to see the details of the "real" contract without all the puffery before deciding if this is a good deal or not.

Points: 0

#2 by Raiderjoe // Sep 01, 2011 - 1:29pm

C. Johnson vrrt exciting plager. Good to see sihned new deal

Points: 0

#3 by Marko // Sep 01, 2011 - 2:23pm

Wow, he agreed "to Terms with Tennessee." It really would have been a story had he agreed to terms with another team. Because, you know, the only team he could agree with was Tennessee.

Points: 0

#5 by Marko // Sep 01, 2011 - 2:50pm

No, that's not it, Dr. Freud.

A website that frequently contains snarky comments about analysts and other media types who spout cliches or recite useless stats shouldn't be immune from being mocked itself. If you can't laugh at yourself, who can you laugh at?

Relax, it's all in good fun.

Points: 0

#15 by Noahrk // Sep 01, 2011 - 7:35pm

Group hug!

When you can balance a tack hammer on your head, you will head off your foes with a balanced attack

Points: 0

#13 by Marko // Sep 01, 2011 - 5:54pm

No, that's not the point. Something like "Chris Johnson Agrees to Extension with Titans," (similar to the heading for Michael Vick's extension), or "Chris Johnson Ends Holdout, Agrees to Extension." Maybe it could include the dollar amount as well, as in the Vick heading.

The current heading makes it seems like CJ was a free agent and chose Tennessee. We saw a bunch of those types of headlines when the free agent frenzy began about a month ago. He already was under contract with Tennessee, so it's not as if he just became a Titan. The news was that he ended his holdout, agreed to the extension and received a huge contract with $30 million guaranteed (reportedly).

Points: 0

#17 by Aaron Schatz // Sep 01, 2011 - 7:49pm

How about this headline: Football Outsiders Editor Quickly Writes Headline to Link to Chris Johnson Contract Signing Because He's Busy Doing Five Other Things.

Or, alternately, we could run this headline: Football Outsiders Editor Neglects to Plan 2011 Game Charting Project and Ignores Reader E-Mails Because He Spends an Hour Writing Perfectly Crafted Chris Johnson Headline.

Points: 0

#33 by Theo // Sep 02, 2011 - 12:53pm

"Editor mails all readers to ask for the best headline by vote and waits with publishing until all votes are in, counted and recounted... Waits for possible objections, handles objections, publishes story."

Points: 0

#34 by RichC (not verified) // Sep 02, 2011 - 2:47pm

How bout

"FO Editor does his job, and stops complaining that hes as busy as everyone else on this damn planet"

Points: 0

#43 by Obvious Troll (not verified) // Sep 03, 2011 - 11:58pm

Marko, how do we know that we're talking about Chris Johnson and not Chris Johnson without further detail like team and/or position?

Points: 0

#6 by Ryan Harris // Sep 01, 2011 - 3:13pm

I rarely cheer for the players in these situations, but I am very happy for CJ.

Look after 2 years it was blatantly obvious how underpaid (by NFL standards) this guy was. So he pointed it out and got a bone thrown his way and the Titans said "lets see it for another year before we go all in with you".

In year 3 he puts up 1600 yards and 13 TDs despite the fact that the whole organization was in disarray. People can say what they want about him in terms of "boom or bust" but he is a huge difference maker and he deserves this contract.

Points: 0

#10 by zlionsfan // Sep 01, 2011 - 4:21pm

I think you are right and wrong.

RBs in general and Johnson specifically are overrated in the context of today's NFL: they do not carry the offensive load like they did in generations past, and it is not particularly difficult to acquire a decent RB to replace a more expensive one.

Johnson's 2010 season was effective only in terms of total yards ... posting 264 fewer Effective Yards than actual yards, CJ had the weakest season according to that comparison among backs with 1000 or more actual yards, and CJ's 18 DYAR was 31st in the league. His 2009 season was exceptional by both FO and conventional standards, but if you look at the history of backs who've produced seasons like that, there is nothing to suggest he'll approach those numbers again, and plenty of data to suggest he won't. Tennessee would be foolish to pay Johnson what he wants.

On the other hand, the career of the average RB is remarkably short, the toll that football takes on a former player's body is steep, and rookie contracts are frequently set up in such a way that not even a breakout season is rewarded well. Johnson would be foolish to simply accept his previous salary and assume that some team, somewhere, would compensate him appropriately later in the future.

Points: 0

#14 by Ryan Harris // Sep 01, 2011 - 7:11pm

Dude come on, how can you possibly say that CJ is overrated?

I love FO and all of the data that gets produced. However this new "stats" era has swung too far when someone suggests that CJ is overrated. Im not trying to be a dick but do you watch games? "Effective only in terms of total yards"?? Huh? How much worse would the Titans have been with a "decent RB"? The guy is a special talent.

I also totally disagree with the idea that "its not difficult to acquire a decent RB to replace a more expensive one". If its not difficult why are there so few guys that can carry the ball 20-25 times a game? Ask the Saints how Julius Jones was? Hey Chicago how was Chester Taylor? Leon Washington? Brandon Jackson? Yes there are alot of RB's out there and of course their production is reliant on many other factors, but to just disregard the RB position with such a talking-head blanket statement seems awfully foolish.

I will say that good quality RB's do sometimes slip through the cracks and end up being late round picks or UFA's, in fact probably more so than any other position. This does change the perceived value of RB's in terms of draft status but almost 50% of plays in the NFL are runs, so RB's are still very important.

Points: 0

#21 by MJK // Sep 02, 2011 - 12:32am

A couple of points. First, I agree that some people take the idea that "Running backs are easily replacable" too far. It is true that it is relatively easy to get a decent RB at bargain rates. The thing is, we are now realizing that probably more than half of a running game's effectivness is due to the linemen, scheme, and how much the defense fears the passing game. Hence ordinary or even sub-average RB's like Samkon Gado, Ryan Grant, Donald Brown, Benjarvus Green-Ellis, Tim Hightower, Beanie Wells, etc., can step onto the field beside a good QB, and put up pretty decent rushing numbers behind a good line. That is what we mean when we say it is not difficult to replace a decent RB to replace a more expensive one.

But I agree that when you have a really special guy--someone like LdT or Marshall Faulk when they were in their prime--those guys cannot be replaced easily. I would put Chris Johnson in that category, probably more so even then Adrian Peterson or other "fantasy studs" like Arian Foster. By simple math, say a RB is 40% of a running game. If your line, scheme, and passing game are a perfect 10/10, all you need for your running game to be a really good 8/10 is an average RB. But if you have an elite guy, you'll have a 10/10 running game. And if your contributing peoople are only average, you turn a 5/10 running game into a pretty good 7/10 running game with an elite back.

But in spite of this, your contention that CJ *is* not overrated is not correct. I agree that he *was* not overrated. But the fact is that even elite backs generally only produce for about 3 years...and CJ has done that. I think the chances that he'll be a 10/10 RB for more than about half a season are pretty small. He is almost certainly going to fall back into the "pretty good but not great" level of guys, at best, and those are the guys that are replacable on the cheap.

As to your other point...why are there so few guys that can carry the ball 20-25 times a game? I would say you're asking the wrong question. I think the better question is why you would *want* a guy that can carry the ball 20-25 times a game. Unless you have an elite guy that you want to get on the field as much as possible (Coach Haley, take notice), a RB committee makes far more sense. I'll gladly pay Benjarvus Green-Ellis and Danny Woodhead a combined $6M a year to each carry the ball 10-12 times per game, and each last 5-6 years (hopefully) over paying an aging and probably breaking down CJ $30 M/year to carry the ball 20-25 times per game.

In other words, I'm not sure that guys that can carry the ball 20-25 times per game are rare. I think that guys you WANT to carry the ball 20-25 times per game are rare. Unless you're a fantasy owner.

Points: 0

#23 by Thomas_beardown // Sep 02, 2011 - 1:34am

I'm not sure how you define elite production, but the list of backs with at least 1100 yards and 4 y/a shows 16 counter examples to "only 3 years" in the past 20 years.

Points: 0

#26 by Mr Shush // Sep 02, 2011 - 5:37am

Don't forget to take account of the value of running backs in the receiving game. I agree (even as a Texans fan) that I would rather have Johnson than Foster, but it's closer than people tend to think because Foster is an outstanding receiver and Johnson isn't. Similarly, Charles' superior receiving skills are the reason that (for me) he is fairly clearly a more valuable player than Peterson and arguably than Johnson too.

Points: 0

#35 by RichC (not verified) // Sep 02, 2011 - 2:50pm

DYAR doesn't measure a player's accomplishments. It measures an offense's accomplishments while that player has the ball.

Those things are drastically different.

Points: 0

#9 by Keith(1) (not verified) // Sep 01, 2011 - 4:09pm

No running back deserves this kind of money. I would have searched for a straight-up trade for a better position player (similar to Portis/Bailey), or even a sign-and-trade. No matter how much of an impact this one player makes, it is not enough to add enough wins to the team to justify the money.

(Captcha is "the sadded;" I guess it knows my current feeling about this particular deal.)

Points: 0

#11 by MatMan // Sep 01, 2011 - 5:11pm

Remember that's it's about more than wins. They want to sell a lot of tickets and merchandise over the next 6 years.

Points: 0

#12 by DisplacedPackerFan // Sep 01, 2011 - 5:25pm

I'm not disagreeing but I'm wondering, is a running back now worth more or less than a wide receiver?

Good QB's and good systems can turn an average WR into a good WR. They can do the same for running backs. I've seen Brett Favre make Bill Schroeder a 1000 receiver. I've seen Manning and Brady and Brees and Rivers and Marino and Elway and any good to great QB turn other receivers into real weapons. We've seen great receivers make below average QB's look average to good (recent example Steve Smith with Delhome).

I saw an offense where a decent running back, Ryan Grant, put up 252 DYAR (#2 in the NFL actually) in 09, and the Brandon Jackson/James Starks/John Kuhn combo managed -9/17/43 (so 51 total) in 2010. So it seems reasonable that Grant is 100 - 200 DYAR better than "just a guy" running back.

Greg Jennings put up 330 DYAR last year, but a "just a guy" WR like Mike Williams in Seattle put up 50 or even James Jones in GB who put up 59. So it seems reasonable to say that Jennings is 150 - 300 DYAR better than "just a guy" WR. You may argue those guys are better than just a guy, but I'm looking at top receivers on bad teams and #3 receivers on good teams and they all seem to fall in that range. They are in the high 50's early 60's for rank. If you say there are 64 starting WR in the NFL (or even if you go with 96 for 3WR being the norm) that seems to be the "just a guy" level.

It looks like top WRs are more valuable than top running backs and they certainly have a longer shelf life. But is the impact on the game that much different. Johnson is still getting less than top wide outs.

Sure he performed like "just a guy" last year, with nothing around him. But top WR can do that too.

I know RB is becoming less valuable but I'm just trying to get more info on where they really should be valued. Shorter life span and a slightly smaller impact than the best WR means they should be below the top WR (or TE's). I'm just curious how much.

Points: 0

#16 by justanothersteve // Sep 01, 2011 - 7:35pm

So what's this mean in Kubiak terms?

Points: 0

#19 by Bryan and Vinny Show (not verified) // Sep 01, 2011 - 9:23pm

That Chris Johnson will run for a combined 300 yards in the two games against his team.

Points: 0

#28 by Mr Shush // Sep 02, 2011 - 7:44am

Indeed. Insofar as preseason can be taken as evidence, the Texans pass defense is much improved from its diabolical 2010 levels (37% DVOA and if anything that flatters it), but the run defense may be approximately as bad as it was (2.2%) or even a bit worse.

Points: 0

#27 by erniecohen // Sep 02, 2011 - 7:05am

1) Does anybody have any sort of a quantitative argument that he is worth anything like this?

2) Has any team ever gotten to the SB after giving a ridiculous contract to a player other than a QB?

Points: 0

#29 by Mr Shush // Sep 02, 2011 - 7:58am

"2) Has any team ever gotten to the SB after giving a ridiculous contract to a player other than a QB?"

1999 Rams - Marshall Faulk
2000 Ravens - Jonathan Ogden
2004 Eagles - Terrell Owens
2005 Seahawks - Walter Jones

And that's just cases that happened to spring to mind where the contract was signed the offseason before the Superbowl appearance. Extend the time horizon a little, and you get other examples - Dwight Freeney's 2007 contract was very much still on the books of the 2009 Colts, for instance.

Points: 0

#44 by erniecohen // Mar 11, 2012 - 11:03am

These contracts weren't nearly as ridiculous. Nobody was criticizing these contracts at the time.

- Faulk was <10M guaranteed money for 6 years
- Ogden was 44 M, 12M guaranteed on a 6 year contract (very reasonable)
- TO was guaranteed like 11M on a 7-year backloaded contract
- JOnes was 7 years, 16M guaranteed (also very reasonable)

Not to mention that these were all UFAs. They had CJ under contract.

This is 30M guaranteed to a RB.

This is suicide.

Points: 0

#30 by cisforcookie (not verified) // Sep 02, 2011 - 9:16am

tennessee's rushing dvoa over a period of years

2005 - (negative) 11.5% (25th)
2006 - 3.2% (13th)
2007 - 2.1% (14th)
2008 - 10.5% (8th)
2009 - 11.3% (6th)
2010 - (negative) 6.5% (27th)

not sure what it proves, but there it is.

qualitatively, I would say that chris johnson is a much more valuable running back than most. He plays for a crap team with almost no talent on offense other than him, and he makes them respectable. He's a good enough receiver that he doesn't come off the field on passing downs and would probably be a real asset on a team with above average quarterbacking.

That being said, is he worth 9 million a year? I don't know. My general sense has always been that there are a lot of acceptable so-so guys who you can plug in at running back and keep an offense going. But that doesn't tell us what the value is of having a running back who is demonstrably better than ordinary. The returns on superior talent may very well not be linear in the range of actual human performance. We see ordinary players getting absurd salaries nowadays at positions like offensive guard that have never been a priority for most teams. Who adds more to their team, logan mankins or chris johnson? Ignoring issues of career length.

Points: 0

#32 by Mr Shush // Sep 02, 2011 - 11:18am

If he's only good for a 10 point bump in rushing DVOA, there is no way he's worth it. In reality, though, he's probably good for that bump in rushing DVOA while also drawing significant schematic/game-planning attention and thus boosting the pass offense and thus may very well be worth it.

Merchandising value notwithstanding, of course.

Points: 0

#39 by Mr Shush // Sep 03, 2011 - 9:38am

It's a huge bump in team DVOA. But we're not talking about a 10% bump in team DVOA. We're talking about a 10% bump in run offense DVOA. I'm guessing that's worth about a 1.5% bump in team DVOA. The difference between an appalling team and a dominant team is about 60% team DVOA. That suggests to me that it's not worth spending more than about 3% of your cap to secure a 10% bump in run offense.

Again, that doesn't mean Johnson isn't worth it. It just means that to be worth it, he has to impact the passing game (which he clearly does, directly and indirectly).

Points: 0

#31 by Joshua Northey (not verified) // Sep 02, 2011 - 10:48am

NFL teams are trying to make money not have the best salary/production ratio possible. There is a difference. Johnson is almost certainly overpaid if you are just talking about football.

But we are also talking about having a STAR to market for the next 3 or 4 years. That is important. Losing him would certainly depress ticket sales unless the team was unexpectedly good.

For years 5 and 6 who knows, he may be cut or injured or out of football by then.

Points: 0

#37 by Terry (not verified) // Sep 02, 2011 - 6:23pm

"NFL teams are trying to make money not have the best salary/production ratio possible."

Ahh, but the latter tends to bring the former. Take New England, where (despite having the biggest star in the game) the STAR that is marketed is the "system".

Points: 0

#40 by chemical burn // Sep 03, 2011 - 10:42am

I'm pretty sure Tom Brady is marketed as much or more than any "system." Maybe casual fans give a crap about "the system" but they certainly care about Tom Brady. And very casual fans certaiunly recognize Tom Brady.

Points: 0

#45 by erniecohen // Mar 11, 2012 - 12:12pm


2011: CJ, -39 DYAR.

RIP, TEN. You can't say you weren't warned.

Points: 0

Save 10%
& Support Aaron
Support Football Outsiders' independent media and . Use promo code SCHATZ to save 10% on any FO+ membership and give half the cost of your membership to tip Aaron.