Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

18 Dec 2012

ESPN: Titans Should Cut Chris Johnson

Chris Johnson had a 94-yard run last night. He still shows that dynamic speed when he gets loose. The Titans should cut him after the season anyway. Vince Verhei explains why.

Posted by: Aaron Schatz on 18 Dec 2012

14 comments, Last at 25 Jan 2013, 10:06am by Fred Johnson


by Stats are for losers (not verified) :: Tue, 12/18/2012 - 12:58pm

Sorry if this has been asked before, but for a boom-or-bust back to be theoretically valuable, what sort of minimum "boom rate" would he need? I feel like it would need to be unreasonably high, something upwards of 20-30%, in order to have a chance to put together 1-2 scoring drives each half.

Alternately, what level of compensatory QB/special-teams/defensive play would be needed to overcome his shortcomings?

I know you guys consider all runs >10 yards or so to be basically equal, but it looks like the other guy's stats don't like Johnson even more (he's 42nd by EPA).

by Bryan Knowles :: Tue, 12/18/2012 - 2:18pm

Adrian Peterson's boom/bust rate seems to be doing alright statistically.

So, the positive DVOA line would be somewhere between Peterson and Johnson.

...OK, that's the least useful analysis ever, so let's look again.

Right now, the lowest success rate with a positive DVOA is Ray Rice's 44%, followed by Jamaal Charles at 46%. The highest success rate with a negative DVOA is Willis McGahee's 58%, but he's just about even. After that, you're talking Shonn Greene's 51%, and DeAngelo Williams' 48% when you start getting to double digit negatives.

So, it's going to depend on exactly how big the 'booms' are, but if your'e successful on less than 45% of your runs, it seems you have essentially no shot at being positively rated and, really, you should go for at least a 50/50 split.

by Clemson Matt (not verified) :: Tue, 12/18/2012 - 2:52pm

I seem to remember this being discussed before and the answer was you have to be Barry Sanders.

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Tue, 12/18/2012 - 4:57pm

Or Adrian Peterson.

Really, you need to be able to convert your booms into points. Considering the average NFL team scores on the order of 3 TDs a game, if you can consistently boom for 1-2 scores per game, you're probably doing alright.

by johonny (not verified) :: Tue, 12/18/2012 - 3:08pm

Wouldn't the best move be to trade him to some other sucker for draft picks? You can't always control having another sucker, but I'm pretty sure it is better than just cutting him.

by jimbohead :: Tue, 12/18/2012 - 3:21pm

I'd suggest Washington, but I wouldn't want to do that to Griffin....

by cisforcookie (not verified) :: Tue, 12/18/2012 - 4:03pm

but washington already has alfred morris, a back who has performed better than johnson this year.

by jimbohead :: Tue, 12/18/2012 - 5:03pm

Applying logic to washington personnel decisions has historically been like applying hot sauce to a wound: it just doesn't work.

by jklps :: Tue, 12/18/2012 - 5:24pm

Shannahan wants nothing to do with expensive running backs. Sorry.

by Fred Johnson (not verified) :: Fri, 01/25/2013 - 10:04am

Why on god's earth would Washington need a running back? They have the 3rd best in the league already...

by Elemen (not verified) :: Tue, 12/18/2012 - 5:28pm

The timing of his bonus due makes a trade not worthwhile. He is due a $9 million bonus 5 days after the Super Bowl. So they can cut him and have an extra $9 million in cap room to use next year. Trades aren't allowed in that 5 day window so while they might be able to get a high pick for him, they would still have to pay out that bonus and have it count against their cap.

by justanothersteve :: Tue, 12/18/2012 - 5:43pm

Does that five-days-after-the-Super-Bowl bonus fall into 2013 salary cap or under the 2012? The NFL 2012 year started in mid-March and I assume will end in mid-March 2013. If it still falls into this year's cap, the only other use for the cap money would be to give bonuses and extensions to players currently on the Titans roster.

by Tom Gower :: Fri, 12/21/2012 - 12:53pm

It's actually not a bonus, but that's when the guarantee of $9M of his $10M base salary for 2013 kicks in.

What's the trade value of an inconsistent running back making $10 million a year? I'm guessing somewhere between none at all and maybe a 6th round pick if a couple teams get involved.

by Fred Johnson (not verified) :: Fri, 01/25/2013 - 10:06am

9 million for an early 1st round draft pick is a good trade...